Facebook’s mandatory new separate mobile messaging app is making headlines this week over the breadth of privacy permissions it requires, and while its true the app has access to things like call records, text messages, contacts, photos and more, its not because the social network requires them — Android does.
The social media giant has began phasing out the integration of its news feed and Messenger services Wednesday, instead requiring Messenger users to download a separate app to use the service on their smartphones.
In order to do so, Android users have to allow a host of unprecedented privacy permissions, including granting the app access to network connectivity, text messaging, microphone, camera, call logs, contacts, email, other apps and the data they share, to name the big ones.
According to Facebook, however, it’s the way Android structures permissions in its operating system that require such an all-or-nothing approach. When submitting apps to Android, Facebook and other app builders are slaves to Android’s stiff privacy programming and language, which requires users agree to all permissions before using the app, regardless of whether they may or may not use a specific feature.
Apple iOS users, by contrast, can allow or forbid the app’s permissions individually and at their leisure. As The Wall Street Journal points out, “if an iPhone user never makes a voice call with Facebook Messenger, the app might never ask for permission to use the phone’s microphone.”
As a result, iPhone users can still use the app to send messages, but deny it permission to access other smartphone features like contact lists or the microphone.
Earlier this week the company posted a statement further asserting that many of the privacy violations touted by the media were misinterpreted, overblown and based on outdated information, and pointed to a recent update in Google’s Android privacy permissions.