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Facebook Messenger app gathers information from unknowing users

Facebook’s messenger app has been around since August of 2011, but only recently has the social media company offered messenger from inside the original Facebook app as the only way access Facebook chat.  This push for a split between messenger and the original Facebook app has sent some users into a fury, both for the inconvenience of having to jump between screens and because of the extreme permissions that are granted to the application upon its download.

However, most applications available for download require the same permissions granted to the Facebook messenger app. This makes the outrage directed specifically at the chatting app random, but also applicable to other similar apps like Google Hangouts, Kik, and Kim Kardashian: Hollywood.

For some students, this application is just another normal download to keep up with their chatting needs.

Computer technician with a specialization in Apple products and mobile devices, Gene Ammerman has yet to download the new messenger app and doesn’t plan on obtaining it in the near future.  Ammerman feels that the application violates users’ privacy and can have serious consequences for those uninformed about its information-gathering permissions.

“We do have the choice not to use it, but so many people rely on Facebook that they know you’re going to get it anyway,” Ammerman said.  “So you’re stuck feeling violated in the end.”

Of the many permissions needed to run messenger, the most extreme include access to the phone’s microphone and camera at any time.  This access can come without notifying or prompting the user, as stated in the app’s settings.  Facebook claims that this access will be solely used to tailor advertisements to each user.

Companies are able to utilize and access the information gathered through apps for uses other than advertising. This is what upsets Ammerman. He explained that students especially have to be cautious of the things they track on their phone because of the information messenger and similar apps have access to.  This information can potentially be saved and passed around without the user’s later consent.

“When I was 20 I could go spray paint a water tower with my buddy, take pictures, and burn the negatives.  Now your images are saved even if you delete them off your phone,” Ammerman said.

Freshman early childhood development major Brittni Hanrahan has downloaded the messenger application, but feels that its users should acknowledge the implications involved with its usage.

“It’s kind of scandalous,” Hanrahan said.  “You trust them with this stuff that shouldn’t really be used beyond advertising.”

Hanrahan doesn’t think users need to be afraid of the application, but rather cautious of what information it can gather.

“In the end it’s just an app,” Hanrahan said.  “There are other ways to communicate if you don’t want the responsibility of it accessing your information.”

Ammerman stressed that students need to make sure they know what they are agreeing to before jumping into the selfies, messages, and web surfing that come with various apps.

“Take time to investigate what you’re agreeing to,” Ammerman said.  “Once you agree and take a compromising picture, you can’t come back and claim ignorance.  It can come back to haunt you, so just be careful.”

About Justin Kirkham (124 Articles)
Justin Kirkham is currently the Editor-in-Chief at the Arbiter and has been pursuing journalism since high school. Having interned as a blogger for YouTuber Strawburry17 and having invested far too many hours in news and cultural writing, he aims to continue working within the realms of gaming/technology, environmental and social justice journalism. He is strangely attuned to pop culture and can name both of Taylor Swift's cats.
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