Last August, Facebook released their Facebook Messenger app for smart phones. This app is great for communicating with large groups of people (like party planning) so that everybody is involved, and also for allowing a friend to locate you in case you are lost or are meeting up at an unfamiliar location. In many ways, this app is a great convenience to many people and does make communication easier, but like with all social networking, users need to know about the privacy concerns and what they need to keep in mind to protect themselves.
The number one thing that consumers have shown concern for is the GPS tracking. When messaging somebody you can have it show everybody in the conversation your location via GPS. They all can see where you are messaging from and use GPS to get directions to you. Though is very useful in some situations, it is important to only use this function when necessary. You might not know everybody who is participating on messenger, nor do the people viewing your conversation have to be on your friends list to see your texts. Be sure you know who you are giving your location to and turn the function off if you aren’t sure.
This situation dovetails into another concern many consumers have. This new app does show everybody invited to the conversation. However, until they make their first post, it only shows their first name. This means, if you know 3 people named “Dave” you don’t know which one could be invited to chat until they say something. This can cause some awkward and embarrassing moments to those who aren’t careful. It also means that people you don’t know could be invited to the conversation and you might think it was actually a friend. Be careful with what you post. Make sure you know everybody before stating things or giving away your location.
The last item that has consumers concerned is that you can tell if a message you have sent has been read or not. For general purposes this is useful, but somebody could use this information to spy on you. It is also a way for spammers to know if your Facebook profile is active and if you have connected your phone to it. By knowing if you have read a message, they could then send you more messages in an attempt to trick you and steal your identity. You cannot turn this function off. The best thing you can do is delete anything that looks suspicious.
“Is Facebook’s New Messenger App a Privacy Risk?” was written by Kat Rocha. Kat is a Victim Advisor at the Identity Theft Resource Center. We welcome you to post/reprint the above article, as written, giving credit to and linking back to ITRC Blog.