Thursday, August 21, 2014


I’m sorry to report that the world is coming to an end. You see, Facebook will soon require all users to download their new Messenger app. Yes, I know this is certainly worthy of the tremendous attention the press has given it but please calm down. It is not as earth shattering as it seems.

For those of you who haven’t kept up with the kerfuffle, there was a time when you had to launch Facebook to check your personal Facebook messages. Well, Facebook will soon require everyone to install an additional app to do this same thing. After you install the new app, you receive Facebook messages much like you receive text messages now. In addition to standard text messages, you can make free phone calls to Facebook members worldwide and send voice/video messages instead of text messages. Unlike Facebook, the Messenger app is always running. The problem seems to be that Facebook is requiring people to install the app when they were perfectly happy with the old way of doing things. This first time I ran into this sort of thing was over 30 years ago when many people didn’t want to start using a “mouse” to operate a computer when a keyboard was perfectly fine.

But the thing that is really burning some britches are the evil “permissions” you must grant when installing the app. Every time you install an application on your smartphone or tablet, you are required to “accept” permissions that the app needs to operate. For example, a camera app will require permission to use your on-board camera for obvious reasons.

Among the permissions that Facebook Messenger requires are the following: Your identity, access to your calendar, your location, access to your photos, camera and microphone. Other permissions include the ability to “make telephone calls on your behalf” and access to all your contacts. What many have read into this is, “Facebook wants to know who I am, what I’m doing, my exact location and will call all my friends, view my pictures and listen to every conversation any time they want! Therefore PANIC!”

This is, to put it delicately, overhyped hogwash from tinfoil-wearing nuts. The fact is that every app you install has similar permissions. In fact the Messenger permissions aren't any different from similar apps you’ve used for years.

I really need more column space to explain this fully but please understand that your privacy is still protected to a great extent. Facebook would get into a fantastic amount of legal trouble if they truly spied on people in this manner. However, we all need to keep in mind that nothing is truly free. The price we pay for the convenience of a digital world is a bit of privacy. Advertisers want to deliver ads that are catered to our interests or geography, for example. Besides all that, privacy hasn’t existed in decades now. We all have to either deal with that or move back into caves.

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