In another blow to the hotly debated issue of online privacy that’s raging all around, social networking giant Facebook stands in the docks for high treason. Facebook has been accused of reading text messages of its Android mobile phone app users and is one amongst other popular online companies that supposedly access smartphone users’ personal information.
The text reading controversy
Smartphone users of popular social networking website Facebook need to be extra wary when they compose personal messages using the Facebook app on their phones. This follows a news report by the London Sunday Times that accused Facebook of reading text messages on Android devices.
Facebook and other companies like Yahoo! and Google have access to personal information of their users on their smartphones. However, Facebook has replied that it is running a trial before launching its own messaging service and that its new Android Market app does utilize read/write functions for SMS. But it denied “reading” any texts and pointed out that permission to gain access is very clearly stated when you install the application.
The official version
Facebook goes on to say that users should be aware that Facebook may access their text messages according to the provisions under the ‘Permissions’ tab in the Android Market if users download it from there. In an official reply, Facebook has said that it was running “a limited test of mobile features that integrate with SMS functionality”, but the ability to read and write messages “is not currently implemented for most users of the mobile app.”
It further added that ”If Facebook ultimately launches any feature that makes use of these permissions, we will ensure that this is accompanied by appropriate guidance.”
The other mischief-makers
In the midst of all this confusion is the growing concern for the unwary app user who is virtually vulnerable and a potential victim of spam-happy advertisers. Online marketers today will stop at nothing to lay hands on the minute details of every potential online customer that they can, and a number of companies are only more than happy to oblige them. The Sunday Times report also says that social media sites like Flickr and Yahoo! read users’ text messages through their apps, while others can dial and intercept calls without them even knowing. The YouTube app is supposedly capable of remotely accessing and operating a user’s smartphone camera to take photographs and videos.
And with such poor concern for online privacy, it’s only a harrowing revelation from the YouGov poll that says that 70 percent of all those who download apps rarely or never read terms and conditions while downloading them!