Why Is Facebook's App Asking To Read Your Text Messages?

Hint: It might not be to see what you're sexting.

Over the last month or so, a few keen-eyed Android users may have been startled by some peculiar permission requests when they tried to update their Facebook app. One request asks to "read your text messages (SMS or MMS)."

That's not exactly the kind of language users are likely to find reassuring, especially after recent allegations that Facebook has been scanning private messages within the social network. So, Facebook is currently on a PR offensive to calm user fears. "We realize that some of these permissions sound scary," writes Facebook. "So we’d like to provide more info about how we use them ... If you add a phone number to your account, this allows us to confirm your phone number automatically by finding the confirmation code that we send via text message."

Make of those assurances what you will, and you can read more about the other permissions here. Indeed, as one Reddit user point out, Facebook has been asking for these SMS permissions for quite some time.

For what it's worth, Facebook isn't the first app to raise eyebrows for requesting information that some users might feel is overly intrusive. Angry Birds had some explaining to do when it asked to read to users' SMS texts in 2011. And Path on iOS similarly found itself in hot water a year ago when it was caught quietly collecting address books.

And remember: If Facebook's requests make you feel uncomfortable, and the benefits of having access to your social network in your pocket don't outweigh your anxieties (which is fair!), there is always the proverbial delete button.

[Image: Flickr user Wonderlane]

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39 Comments

  • Actually on my Samsung s4 I was able to delete both the Facebook app AND their messenger app which does the same thing. I'll be using my mobile browser from now on. Going to download the Opera browser just for fb use on my mobile. This invasion of privacy is ridiculous

  • The next best technology platform might allow some checkboxes on these settings, i.e. make them optional? I don't like letting sweeping access to my device be the consequence of accepting some minor feature. (This also makes people less likely to accept the next generation of devices, because the ones we have are already sketchy and highly invasive.)

  • The delete button may work for your messages, but you can't delete FaceBook from your Android phone. Because of security concerns I deactivated my FaceBook account a year ago. But with Android (I am not sure about Apple) you can not remove the FaceBook app itself. It will not let you and if it did it would break other apps. So I don't want permission for it to read my messages, I want permission to remove that POS FaceBook from my phone!

  • I can delete Facebook from my Android phone (a Moto G). And I can on my Android tablet, too (a Nexus 7). If you're buying Android phones with undeleteable bloatware on them, you're just buying the wrong Android phones.

  • Eddie Bates

    Americans Right to Privacy DOES NOT collect your personal information. Did you know that Google, Yahoo, Hotmail, AOL and other service providers are scanning, analyzing and categorizing your emails every day? As a result, these numerous providers are pleased to give you a "free" email service because they generate large revenues for themselves through the selling of your personal information to third parties! 100% Privacy guaranteed. At americansrighttoprivacy.com you will remain anonymous as we DO NOT and WILL NOT copy, scan, or sell any of your content. Our email service is 100% privacy guaranteed.

  • Teri Cross Chetwood

    Like they're not already doing it. Now they're suddenly asking permission. It's called CYA.

  • Maxwell Williams

    Nice of Facebook to help out the NSA ...see something ...say something! I gotta believe Hitter would be very proud of the Obama Administration.

  • They have to spend millions to get Hillary into the whitehouse....she is the lead in the survellaince state and will open the FEMA CAMPS and use the NDAAS agains the fast right wing conspiracy..SO yes she is the V in vendetta and she will check all texts for any links to a vast right winged conspiracy that is the terrorist in her crooked life.

  • Gavin Snyder

    You're going to make a very fine and compliant sheep in the New World Order -- a docile specimen with no worries whatsoever as your wrist is tattooed while being led to the "showers."

    Don't forget to soap up!

  • Jonah Cohen

    Where is the request for comment from the company itself? I thought it was standard journalistic practice to solicit the other side of a story before just assuming the worst.