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Facebook Messenger gathers user information from the unknowing

Facebook Messenger gathers user information from the unknowing
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Is the Facebook Messenger app spying on you?

I've heard from a lot of folks concerned when Facebook recently dropped instant messaging from the their mobile Facebook App, requiring users download a separate Messenger App. During the installation, users were prompted to give the app permission to access nearly everything in your phone (of course, I covered this in detail for you) from your contact list, to your microphone and even your camera.

Computer technician Gene Ammerman, an Apple products specialist, has made a case that the application violates users' privacy and can have serious consequences for those uninformed about its true information-gathering practices. He told the Boise State Arbiter that "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. So you're stuck feeling and being violated in the end."

But Facebook denies that Messenger collects our private data. We've heard strong statements from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg about his unwavering position on user protection. But now, we are hearing that Facebook Messenger is devouring content from our private FB Messenger conversations like Pac-Man in the Famous Amos cookie factory.  The question is, are any of us surprised?

Well, most messenger/chat apps require similar permissions so what Facebook is asking does not really seem outside the norm. But if they are not doing anything unsavory with the information, why does Facebook think it so important to require access to the phone's microphone and camera at any time? I'll can tell you this certainly reminds me of the celebrity iCloud photo hack of just a few days ago. Would any of us be stunned if the same thing happened from someone tapping into the Facebook Messenger "vault"?

It's about the payoff

Most folks' first instinct when they hear social media companies want user information is to feel violated. Now, for these major companies, the motivation is not to appeal to their inner "peeping Tom." Rather, they are consuming our private information because it has great monetary value.

Sure, Facebook will tell you that their interests lie solely in the ability to tailor their online ads so they target people already interested in those items and industries. And while they certainly are doing that, the word "only" is where everything gets cloudier and far more murky. While Facebook works overtime to safeguard themselves by keeping users in the dark, as a rule you should know that it is highly likely that usable information is saved and offered later one, without consent.

Should you use the app?

Listen, knowledge is power. If you want your spouse to pick up dinner on the way home, it's probably not going to be damaging if that information leaks. The real danger comes from being too trusting. If you approach Facebook Messenger conversations with the idea that somebody you don't know might be watching, you will likely be wise about what you choose to share.

Moving forward, it's a good idea to assume anything you sign up for could be potentially damaging if too much is shared. It is nearly impossible to say "I didn't know," once you have given permission. So enjoy your apps but be wise. Keep your private thoughts and photos as they should be.

An alternative to Facebook Messenger

If you cannot give up the convenience of Facebook to communicate with others, you still can opt out of the Facebook Messenger app. Instead, just log in through your browser and send your messages in that format. Sure, it may seem a little "old fashioned," but hey, it works.

And for what it's worth, there are a bunch of other Facebook privacy features and ever-changing options you can take advantage of.

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