Another week, another accusation that Facebook is mistreating our personal data. UK newspaper the Sunday Times has claimed that Facebook ‘admitted reading text messages’ through its Android application, thereby invading the privacy of smartphone users.
Facebook has denied this, however, responding that the newspaper has misunderstood its terms and conditions – especially with regard to the context and meaning of the term ‘read/write’. In the realm of software permissions, the social media giant has explained that this merely means its app can be integrated with a user’s texting service, not that it will spy on messages and use them for advertising strategies.
A Facebook spokesman, quoted in the Telegraph, said: “The Sunday Times has done some creative conspiracy theorising, but the suggestion that we’re secretly reading people texts is ridiculous.
“The permission is clearly disclosed on the app page in the Android marketplace and is in anticipation of new features that enable users to integrate Facebook features with their reading and sending of texts.”
Internet users are used to seeing terms and conditions everywhere and for many it becomes habit to simply click ‘I agree’ (or a similar indication of assent), rather than reading them properly. This means that people often give their ‘agreement’ to things that they might not usually, simply because they haven’t realised the issue is included. When it is pointed out, numerous people become upset and media headlines abound.
This is a frequent hassle for Facebook, which has extensive terms and conditions. Facebook’s legal terms are split into groups based on issues affecting different areas of the business and evolve to suit the company’s model, making them difficult to keep track of.
However, they are presented in an accessible format, using clear, concise language. It is therefore easy to understand why the company gets a little frustrated when users with privacy concerns cry foul after not taking the time to read about its services.
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