The New Facebook Messenger App

Oh, Facebook. The most popular social media platform there is, and to think it was started by a 19-year-old Harvard student in his dorm room 10 years ago. If you’ve seen the movie The Social Network, you can picture Mark Zuckerberg (aka Jesse Eisenberg) in his dimly lit dorm room, typing away like a mad man. Who would’ve thought it would take off the way it did. Today there are 1.31 billion Facebook users, and for some of those users, Facebook has replaced the good ol’ newspaper. A lot of people now check their Facebook first thing in the morning and I will admit, I’m guilty as charged – it’s become habit at this point.

Facebook issues occasionally pop up in the news, and when they do it causes an uproar. This may have to do with Facebook’s popularity and the amount of people who use the social platform. Recently, Facebook announced that it’s Messenger would no longer be in the main Facebook app due to “security” concerns. Facebook stated that Android and iOS users would now have to download their Messenger app as a separate entity.

Here are a few of the myths/concerns about the Messenger app, and what they actually mean(below):

  • To use Facebook Messenger, you must download the Messenger app
    • You can go to in your mobile device’s browser, and receive/send messages there.
  • Facebook’s Messenger app will use your phone’s microphone to record anything it desires
    • Facebook’s Messenger app has the functionality to let you make phone calls to your Facebook friends. When you download the Messenger app, it will prompt you to agree to let the app use your microphone.
    • The Messenger app also allows you to record videos. Without audio feeding to your microphone, the videos wouldn’t have sound.
  • The Messenger app will send SMS messages without your permission
    • If you add your phone number to the Messenger app, Facebook uses an SMS message for verification. You can also contact people who aren’t on Messenger via SMS and MMS.
  • Facebook Messenger has access to all contacts saved on your phone, and their data
    • Facebook asks for permission to have access to your contacts when you first download the app. This will come in handy if you want to send someone who’s already saved as a contact in your address book.

Everyone needs to understand that you agree to give Facebook all of this information once you do first create an account. Facebook has extensive Terms and Policies that can be found here. Facebook says that they receive data whenever a user is running Facebook. Information can be collected from the devices we access Facebook from and may include our IP address, mobile phone number and pages visited. Also, when photos and/or videos are posted on Facebook, Facebook may receive the date, time and place it was taken.

Is Facebook Safe?

I think this comes down to personal opinion and level of comfort with technology. There is a lot of personal data floating around on the Internet. Have you applied for a credit card online? Bought something online? Think of all the personal info you’re required to enter. These websites are built to be secure, but hackers look for holes and inconsistencies to break through.

If Facebook can collect this data, imagine what data other companies have access to.

Facebook accounts do carry a lot of personal information, but not as personal as online banking. As a consumer, here are a few precautions you can take to beef up your online security:

  • Create unique user IDs, something more than just your name or “admin”
  • Make sure your passwords are lengthy, and a combination of upper case and lower case letters, numbers and symbols
  • Install anti-virus protection software on your computer or devices and perform frequent scans
  • Keep up with software updates
  • If you do your banking online or input secure information such as your SSN, credit card number, etc., make sure the website is security enabled, with the web address reading “https” or “shttp”
  • When you are going to post something online, put yourself in other people’s shoes – your boss, your grandmother, etc. and make sure it’s something everyone is allowed to see. There have been cases of home burglaries when an opportunist has seen a family had “checked in” on vacation.

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