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Facebook wants to read your text messages, should you care?

August 12, 2014 - Written By Wayne Peterkin

Not many Android users bother to read the permissions that an app requests and only care about installing their app of choice. I always warn against this blatant act of laziness but most friends and family of mine don’t seem to care too much. The select few that do care about this are normally the tech enthusiasts and once again we are the ones to point out the questionable requests of a certain app. This time its Facebook. That’s right, Facebook has once again found itself in a difficult position when it comes to their Android app and this time its not because of sloppy performance.

Ever since the Edward Snowden debacle, more people have become on edge about security. Demands have even been made by regular consumers that companies should become more transparent. Since those in the tech world have always had security concerns, Facebook’s request in their app is probably even more alarming to the tech community.

The permission that is causing such an uproar is the one that asks to send, receive and read a user’s text messages. It does sound a bit alarming when one just hears these requests without thinking about why these requests would be required. Facebook explains that this permission is only used when a user adds their phone number to their account. This seems to be a very plausible reason. If, however, you don’t want Facebook’s app to utilize this permission then simply don’t add your number to your account or just don’t use the app at all if you still don’t believe that Facebook is to be trusted. You could also just use the browser on your phone or desktop. Some who still wish to use the application have decided to put root access to use and have installed an app called “App Ops Starter” which allows users to disable some permissions required by apps installed on their device.

What most users should understand though is that true security may long have been a thing of the past. Unless your device is rooted and running a custom ROM or you bought your device from the Google Play Store, you probably will never be free from something like Carrier IQ which might arguably be far worse than whatever Facebook is doing. Though some see rooting as a cure to something like Carrier IQ, it can become a double edged sword because it also exposes the user, especially an inexperienced user, to all sorts of other harms lurking on the internet. It is very difficult to imagine that we are ever truly in control of our privacy today.