Facebook Android App Able to Access Text Messages
by Leslie Meredith, TechNewsDaily Senior Writer
February 29 2012 04:34 PM ET
CREDIT: Android Market
Is Facebook secretly reading your text messages, as a report in The Sunday Times of London claims?
Facebook spokesperson Andrew Noyes says no, but it could.
"The Sunday Times has done some creative conspiracy theorizing but the suggestion that we’re secretly reading people’s texts is ridiculous," the company said in a statement. "Instead, the permission is clearly disclosed on the app page in the Android marketplace..."
And so it is. The app displays a page that says that if accepted, Facebook for Android can edit, read and receive both SMS and MMS text messages. But the app allows users to send only instant messages, not text messages, to their to their Facebook friends. So why does Facebook need access to the texts stored in your phone?
The company explained that it’s testing a future feature that would integrate texting with Facebook. "It's a piece of dormant code used to run a limited internal test of a new feature," Noyes said. "We haven't launched anything so we're not using the permission." He said that it will be obvious to users when they do.
A follow-up story in The Register, a British online news site, points out a difference between Android phones and iPhones . Apple's iOS walls off text messaging and other phone functions from third-party apps; Android does not. People should always read an app's permissions to make an informed decision on whether or not to download, but few do.
According to a survey commissioned by The Times that accompanied the Facebook story, 70 percent of respondents said that they do not check what permissions apps require before downloading them.
And some mobile apps don't even tell downloaders what they will access from a person's mobile device. California hopes to change that, and last week announced it would require all mobile developers to disclose this type of information.