Do you remember that time Facebook forced everyone onto their Messenger app? How? They made it impossible to view direct messages without the Messenger app, which some got around by using the mobile browser. Most people just simply downloaded the Messenger though. Now it’s a little clearer why Facebook forced that move.
The Messenger app now has now been downloaded over 1 billion times on just the Play Store and has over 900 million users every month. Exactly what Facebook wanted.
Looking at Messenger’s terms and conditions, yes, those ones none of us ever read something jumps out. If we had read them we might not have ever downloaded the app. Facebook gives itself the right to record audio with the microphone without confirmation. It also reserves the right take pictures and video, also without your knowledge or specific permission.
Right now you might be thinking they might have those terms but they do not actually use that power. You’d be wrong.
Testing whether Facebook listens to conversations
An American couple suspected that Facebook was listening in and decided to test that. The couple is YouTube user Neville and wife.
They chose a random subject to talk about – cat food. They do not own cats and had never searched for cat food or talked about it. So they set a phone on a desk and proceeded to talk about cat food for about an hour and half. Neville notes that at least one or both of Facebook and Messenger was open in the background as they talked about cat food.
It took only two days before cat food ads started popping up on the Facebook timeline. That’s right, they talked about cat food for about an hour and half just once and two days later evidence that Facebook had been listening in on their conversations came in the form of cat food ads.
Should you change your smartphone habits?
You might want to if you can help it. Of course we know that over here in the third world companies like Facebook are not too interested in advertising to us to go through as much trouble as they would go through for first world residents. Yes, Facebook are not the only ones doing that creepy stuff, Google does the same too.
So if those companies are not too interested in us should we just go about our lives? Not necessarily. We should take control of our smartphone security, some of the apps we have installed could be doing the same snooping and someone out there is interested in what we are up to.
We should take care to only download verified apps on our official app stores, although the likes of Facebook are there too. Still, that reduces the number of rogue apps we are exposed to. We should try to go through terms and conditions before installing. I know, they make those that long so that we don’t read them but we should at least look at the permission requests those apps make.
Even after installing the apps we should also go to the settings and manually approve permissions for apps. You might want to deny a flashlight app permission to your microphone for example.
Regarding Facebook, if it’s possible just use your mobile browser instead of downloading the apps. The Facebook apps are even resource hungry and uninstalling them could lead to a faster phone and better battery life.