Messenger permissions without the scare tactics.

In recent days, some people and websites have gone out of their way to play the 1984 card because Facebook wants to drop the messaging feature from their full app, and relegate it to the standalone messenger (which really, if you talk to people more than make FB posts, this is actually a benefit for you). But, because of the permissions required to grant people the power to do the things they expect of the app… Let’s just say a lot of people have been having a go at scaring everyone, because they want you to believe Mark Zuckerberg is going to hijack your Messenger app, activate the robot mode hidden in your phone’s firmware, and walk it around your house taking pictures of your dirty underwear. Or ever worse, take a picture of what you wear while you play Papa Pear Saga. That bastard!


Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t care about hijacking your camera so he can watch you poop. The guy has better things to do than to commandeer your microphone so he can listen to your fart sounds and the conversations you have with yourself while you’re home alone eating a bucket of ice cream. He just doesn’t care.

I opened up the app center on my Galaxy II (since I’m keeping it old school), and pulled the permissions for Messenger.

Facebook Messenger permissions, screen 1

Facebook Messenger permissions, screen 1

“Your Personal Information”

Social media is just that. You interlocking with your friends and acquaintances in a social manner. So a social media app is going to want to hook up with your contacts list to try and connect you with folks. Messenger ALSO has the capability to manage your texting features (so you can just send texts from inside of Messenger instead of switching to your text app), so it uses your contacts list JUST LIKE your messaging app does. Nothing really sinister or scary there, unless you think your built in messaging app is trying to steal your contacts.

“Services that cost you money”

This goes back to the SMS features of Messenger. The application makes no assumptions about your data plan or your text plan. If you use it to manage texts, it’s up to you to be aware that you may be charged for a text sent from the app (like you have some crazy limited text plan in 2014, Messenger will send that 301st text, even though you pay for anything over 300). There’s also a tap to dial feature, which comes in handy when someone sends you a phone number you asked for. Messenger will make the call for you, but it won’t check your minute plan.

“Your messages”

Should be a no brainer with already explaining how they integrate into your texting features and such. To send or read texts via the app, you have to give it permission to access your texts. “Edit your texts” refers to you typing the words in, and then the app inserts it into an SMS/MMS message. Thus, “edit”. Not “LULZ ALTER YOUR TEXT MESSAGE SO YOU KEEP SENDING YOUR MOM A TEXT THAT SAYS BOOBZ!”

“Your location”

GPS. Your phone has it, and Messenger will insert your location when you message another FB user if you have the little location icon active. It’s no big deal, because you can disable the location sharing in the app itself. It just sets up for the ability to use it if you decide to.

“Network communication”

This is getting permission to access the network, aka “the internet”, via mobile data and wifi. Every app on your phone probably has privileges for Network communication; otherwise none of them would ever connect to the internet. You’d never seen Pinterest again on your phone.


Big paranoia moment. “OMG. THE ZUCK WILL HAVE ACCESS TO MY STORAGE!” Not exactly. You know when you’re chatting with Grandma, and you want to send her a picture of your kid? Or you’re talking to your BFF from college, and you’re trying to send them a picture you took with your phone of the guy you slept with last night? That all gets tucked away in the storage of your phone. In order to send pictures to Grandma, or to prove you’ve still got the goods to slut it up in your 30’s, the application needs to get allowances to open your storage in order to send that picture. Think of it as you keep your pictures in a photo album, and I ask you if I can open your photo album so I can show my cousin Vinnie the picture you were telling him about.

Messenger permissions, screen 2

Messenger permissions, screen 2

“Hardware controls”

Yes, this is where folks get scared. This is the area that makes people think Zuck is watching them to find the next German schizer porn star. What’s it mean though? If you want to turn the volume up or down while you’re playing back a voice message your friend Billy sent you in Messenger, the app has to have permission to access the hardware control for volume. If not, you’re stuck at whatever the preset was. The entire microphone portion is for the voice message Billy recorded and sent you. If the app doesn’t get permission for that, then Billy’s SOL and has to call you, give you his up to 10 minutes of sound, and then hang up and message you again. Same thing goes for the camera. If you want to take a picture and send it to a friend via Facebook messages, the app has to be able to get to the camera and invoke the camera. Without the privilege to do so, Facebook nor Messenger can use your camera. No posting pictures of your dinner, no more videos of your cat purring at your phone. That’s all it’s trying to do, is get permission to access the camera to do things *you* want it to do.

“Phone calls”

Kind of a no brainer. The app needs to read your call status so it knows what to do. If you’re in Messenger, and Messenger notices a change in call status because a call is coming in, it knows to send itself to the background so your dialer can take over. Or maybe it needs know “If a call is coming in, I need to stop controlling the audio levels and return control of that to the operating system”. Not check to see when it should eavesdrop on you.

“System tools”

This is where Messenger can do things like prevent your phone from going to sleep if you’re watching a video, pull data from other apps (like your texting app, for example), and such. It’s there to allow the app to modify the behavior of the phone to allow the app to work as intended.

Messenger permissions, screen 3

Messenger permissions, screen 3

These are typically hidden, but I popped it out just to show.


You know those notifications that appear on the bar next to the time and your battery level? That’s the control for it.

“Network communication”

This enables the application to download things from the internet without you opening the app and doing it yourself. Like, the meme your friend sent you. You ever wonder why when you open the message up that the picture’s already there? That’s what this permission does. It allows for that to happen without you having to do it.

“Development tools”

Access to protected storage, which is within the bounds of pulling logs and trying to develop a better application. I run beta versions of FB applications, which means those permissions are really important.

The rest are pretty self explanatory. But, I want people to stop and think while they’re trying to make Facebook’s apps into some bigger demon, have they ever looked at the other apps they use and declared them “sinister motive”? I have, and I don’t subscribe to that notion. Then again, I have stopped and made the effort to understand the technology I use instead of letting someone else dictate to me what I should believe it does. đŸ˜‰

This is Instagram. Do you think they’re trying to take pictures of you taking a wee?

Instagram permissions 1

Instagram permissions 1

Instagram permissions 2

Instagram permissions 2


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