Dig Baton Rouge

East of the River

By Katie East

Facebook has caused a stir by announcing to users that they would be required to download and use the Facebook Messenger app or lose messaging privileges. Every time Facebook makes a change, the Internet inevitably freaks out; this time is no different. The reason for the virtual stampede might actually be freak-worthy this time.

So, why is everyone up in arms over the Facebook Messenger app? First of all, Facebook is forcing users to download another app and taking away messaging for those who don’t. No one likes to be bullied into doing something, even if it does just require a tap.

Facebook isn’t new to slowly unveiling change to ease people into something they’ll initially hate. This time it’s the privacy issues and not the application features that are pissing people off.

“We bitch every time our wall looks different or a button moves. The fact of the matter is, that’s all we can do: bitch. For the most part none of us Facebook users will do anything about our dislike. If only we had a ‘Dislike’ button to show how we feel!”

The Facebook Messenger app has been around since 2011, but this recently forced-transition has brought a lot of press to the app’s permissions. In December 2013, Huffington Post published some of the more questionable implications of the app. If you download the Facebook Messenger app, here are just some of the terms you’re agreeing to:

  • Allows the app to change the state of your network connectivity.
  • Allows the app to call phone numbers without your intervention, which may result in unexpected charges or calls and may cost you money by making calls without your confirmation.
  • Allows the app to send SMS messages, which may result in unexpected charges and cost you money by sending messages without your confirmation.
  • Allows the app to record audio with microphone. This permission allows the app to record audio at any time without your confirmation.
  • Allows the app to take pictures and videos with the camera. This permission allows the app to use the camera at any time without your confirmation.

Yikes! The scariest part is that the over 1 billion people who have downloaded the app probably didn’t read these terms before hurriedly clicking yes and installing. Who does anymore? And therein lies the problem.

Since that 2013 article has been recirculating, other more tech-savvy publications have come out explaining that these privacy-breaching policies are nothing new or uncommon. That doesn’t make me feel any better.

Apparently, many apps, even weather-related ones, download your personal data. The most notable is the popular Kim Kardashian game, which apparently exists and is real. When Facebook makes a change though, it is always widely noticed and usually publicly hated. So thanks Facebook, for pissing people off enough for us to notice how violated our privacy has been.

So, why does what Facebook do affect us all so much? There’s the obvious reason: because we’re addicted. There are some casual Facebook users. Most people though either check it 20 times a day, or they choose to not have an account.

The other problem is that we have no other options. Sure, Twitter, Instagram and Pintrest are all popular social media sites. None of them serve the same purpose as Facebook, though.

We bitch every time our wall looks different or a button moves. The fact of the matter is, that’s all we can do: bitch. For the most part none of us Facebook users will do anything about our dislike. If only we had a “Dislike” button to show how we feel!

Facebook isn’t what it used to be, plain and simple. It’s constantly changing and evolving to keep its stronghold as an industry leader. That’s understandable. What’s not understandable is the questionable moral decisions the Facebook company has been forcing upon its users lately.

Remember when Mark Zuckerberg promised to keep Facebook, an exclusive site for college students, ad free? Maybe he was just fighting the inevitable. It seems like he’s done an about-face with Facebook’s secret social experiments and selling off users’ information.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t download the Facebook Messenger App. I am saying that even the more reputable social media sites are selling you out in scary ways. The next time I download a “free” app I’ll be sure to read the terms. What you’re giving away might end up costing you.

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