If you're a Facebook user, you've probably noticed that the company is forcing users to download the Facebook Messenger app if they want to send and receive messages. Thousands of users have flocked to the iOS App Store and Google Play Store to complain about the app, and it's not just the fact that it's been separated from the main Facebook application - users are concerned about their privacy and have been led to believe that the Messenger app lets Facebook spy on you.
Can Facebook Messenger spy on you?
Despite what you've heard, Facebook's Messenger app isn't going to call or message your friends or use your device's camera to see what you're up to. For one thing, Facebook would get into HUGE trouble if it did, and it wouldn't be tricky to catch Facebook in the act, particularly after all of this bad publicity highlighting such privacy issues. Also see: 13 best Facebook tips and tricks.
The app does not give Facebook "direct control over your mobile device," either, despite what The Huffington Post reported last year (note that the report has been updated to reflect the reality of the security concerns this month).
In fact the Messenger app's permissions aren't much different from the main Facebook app that you've been using for years, and there are probably several other apps with almost identical permissions installed on your device already.
On Android, downloaders of the Messenger app have to agree to give Facebook permission to access the device's camera, microphone, contacts, location, calendar, WiFi information and more, which does seem rather daunting.
However, those permissions are the same or very similar to most other messaging apps, including WhatsApp, Snapchat and Instagram.
Plus, on Android, Google requires permissions to be worded in a particular way no matter what they're actually used for, so when you read that the app wants you to give it permission to "take pictures and video" or "directly call phone numbers" it doesn't mean that the app is going to do either of those things without your knowledge.
NOTE: Facebook Messenger can, however, like the majority of other websites, apps and online services, collect and use your data for advertising purposes. Some would consider this to be 'spying' on you, but not in the way that many reports are suggesting. Read on to find out more about what Facebook's permissions really mean.
Why does Facebook Messenger need access to your camera?
If you want to send a photo to a friend directly through the Messenger app, you'll be asked to give permission for the app to access your camera. It's not asking you to let it access the camera so that it can watch you while you're sleeping.