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5 myths about Facebook’s new messenger app

After a list of alarming “permissions” that a Facebook user must agree to when downloading the messenger app from the Huffington Post went viral, many Facebook users grew wary of the app and what it could possibly be capable of.

Facebook users struggle most with permissions, such as granting the app access to your camera, microphone and allowing the app to send SMS messages. We know what the permissions are, but what are their intended purposes?

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Is the app a major threat to a user’s privacy, or are we jumping to ill-informed conclusions? Here are five myths about Facebook messenger that are important to remember when downloading the app.

1. The messenger app is new

With the recent and slightly vigorous push to get more users to download the app, it is easy to see why users could think that it is new. The messenger app has been around since 2011, but only began the heavy advertising recently. Facebook has used the growing mobile dependence as a perfectly-timed platform to promote the messenger app and push for the download.

2. The app does things without permission

The list of permissions may seem intimidating, but are not all that different from other messaging apps. Some claim the “sinister” app records audio, captures photos or video and dials calls without the user’s knowledge or consent. This is completely false. Like the original messaging app that is built into the smartphone, the Facebook messenger app requires access to your microphone and camera simply for the ability to send multimedia with or without sound. It requires the permission to make phone calls simply to offer a function that the original Facebook app does not.

(Screenshot Credit: Haleigh McGill)
3. It is the only way to send messages with Facebook

The regular Facebook messaging format can be accessed from a computer or the mobile site within a smartphone’s internet browser. It seems the app is more of a step to make Facebook messaging a complete experience on its own, not an attempt to manipulate users to enhance the company’s brand.

4. The app is overly-intrusive 

Technology in general is intrusive in all kinds of ways. The truth is that this app is no more intrusive than Facebook itself, which can be seen when comparing their terms of service to those of the app. When considering invasions of privacy, the fact is, users have the option to accept or decline policies and terms. Users do not need to use Facebook or its supplementary apps, they choose to.

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5. The app was created with sketchy intentions

There are a large number of apps with pop-up messages requesting access to photos, contacts and microphone, and users typically hit “OK” without a second thought. Does it seem sketchy because the permissions and terms are within a lengthy, fine-print agreement?

Of course, granting access to text messages and personal media seems sketchy when the user is unaware of the reasons behind it. People joke about not reading the terms and just accepting them, so maybe this myth about the app was generated by the conscious choice to ignore the opportunity to inform users of what they’re getting into.

While it is a wise idea to read through the terms, conditions and permissions when using an unfamiliar app, it is also crucial to understand them within the appropriate context and correct intentions.

Even though Facebook has gotten more aggressive with marketing its download, the fact is that the messenger app is not a social-media monster.

Collegian Staff Reporter Haleigh McGill can be reached at news@collegian.com

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