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Report claims Facebook Messenger app packed with spyware

21 September 2014, 2:20 am EDT By Dianne Depra Tech Times
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Facebook Messenger has a lot of potential but issues hounding it prevent people from truly appreciating the app. Or is it really at fault?  ( Facebook )

The Facebook Messenger app has been controversial since the first day the social network announced that it will be migrating all its messaging services to the standalone app. Now, it's in hot water yet again as a report claims that the app is riddled with spyware.

When Messenger was officially launched, a lot of people weren't thrilled. No one liked being forced to do something, after all. Many still conceded, however, because of the extent they had used Facebook's messaging service.

But when news broke out that Messenger is apparently asking for far too many permissions than what an ordinary messaging app should, Android users were up in arms again. Online privacy is a growing concern but Facebook played it down saying it was the operating system's fault; the app was simply following the manner by which permissions are asked before an installation.

But what about now?

"Messenger appears to have more spyware type code in it than I've seen in products intended specifically for enterprise surveillance," revealed security researcher Jonathan Zdziarski in a tweet.

Facebook Messenger is essentially logging everything the user is doing within the app, like what and where they tap, how a device is held when using the app, time spent on the app, and even time the app spends in the background.

Developer Lucy Zhang replied to Zdziarski's tweet and defended her work on Facebook Messenger, saying that tracking activity simply has an analytics function and is used to pinpoint how the app can be made more efficient.

"Can make the app more efficient without knowing what access point I'm connected to IMO," replied Zdziarski back.

This is in reference to an email that Zdziarski wrote where he said that Facebook is using private APIs that could detect Wi-Fi SSIDs. When this is done, think of it as Facebook gaining access to the Wi-Fi networks a user is connected to, as well as process lists for various kinds of information in a device.

"These accusations are completely unjustified. Privacy is core to our approach with Messenger, and like any developer, we analyze usage trends to make our apps better, faster, and more efficient," countered Facebook.

For example, tracking what and where a user taps provided Facebook with the information that a lot of people were using the Like stickers. As such, Messenger was tweaked to let users send all the Like stickers they want with the least number of taps possible.

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