Archives for : December2013


Those who know me are painfully aware that I have no love of Facebook.  It feels as though Facebook is where the English language goes to die.  I don’t mean people in the States claiming their own bastardisation of the English language is English, annoying as it is, I’m referring to people who drop as many letters from a word and still claiming it has some resemblance.  It feels as though Facebook is the low-brow incestuous offspring of the village idiot and their mother.

So, why have an account if I dislike it so much?  I have friends whose primary means of keeping in touch is Facebook.  There are companies whose laziness or greed means their primary online presence is on Facebook.  It would appear that a Facebook account is not just a means of keeping in touch with people, but is a passport to much more.

We give Facebook so much information about ourselves.  We complete extensive profiles, detailing our every interest.  We give our name, date of birth, birthplace, current town of residence, photos of ourself and friends, and so much more required to identify ourselves.  We then give them answers to much more personal questions in the name of security, mother’s maiden name, first pet’s name etc.  Why?  Because we invest so much time in giving Facebook every detail about our lives.

It would appear, however, that this isn’t enough.  Facebook wants more.  I took a read through some of the permissions required by Facebook if you want to use their app on your smartphone.

SMS records: The first permission shows it wants access to all of your texts.  It doesn’t matter who they’re from or how personal they are.  Facebook wants to know who you’re texting and what you’re talking about.  [How dare you not use Facebook chat!]

Storage: Facebook wants full access to your SD card. [They can see which music preferences you’ve not told them about, and which photos you’ve not yet uploaded to them.  They can also create/delete anything.]

System Tools: Facebook wants to be able to

  • change your network state – turn on or off your 3G, 4G, WiFi, Auto-sync, read (or change) your WiFi connections, etc.
  • Draw over other apps – pop up with notifications on parts/all of your screen, not just the notification bar.
  • Prevent your phone from sleeping – keep it running while the screen is off.
  • Re-order running apps – this changes priorities of your apps, it can ensure it has greater priority than your antivirus or launcher.
  • Retrieve running apps – Facebook wants to know which other apps you’ve used recently or currently.
  • Toggle sync – Facebook wants to ensure it, and every other app, is up to date at all times, even if you’ve turned it off to save battery and data.

Location: This is not only which cellular transmitter or WiFi router you’re connected to (used to identify which town you’re in), but it also wants to know which number of which street you’re at.  [You’ve already told Facebook where in the country you live, but it also wants to know your home/work address and the addresses of your friends, where you’re drinking etc.]

Services that cost you money: Basically, Facebook wants to call or text numbers for you, or without you knowing.

Hardware controls: Which includes:

  • Changing audio settings – volume settings and which speaker is used for notifications.
  • Record audio – this means Facebook can turn on your microphone at any time.  Big brother is not only watching you but can listen to you as well.
  • Take pictures and videos – not only can Facebook read the photos, videos, music etc. on your SD card, it can take pictures and/or videos from either camera on your phone at any time, for any purpose.

Accounts: Facebook not only wants to know which accounts you have on your phone (which members of the family can use a phone/tablet, but it also wants to be able to add/change/delete the account and/or the password).

Your personal information: By approving this, Facebook can:

  • add/modify/remove calendar events and email anyone to invite/revoke as guests without your knowledge
  • Modify your contacts – not only does this allow Facebook to read a contact’s name, but their phone numbers, email addresses, home/work addresses and how often you’ve communicated with them, but also gives permission to add/modify/delete any contact(s).
  • Read calendar events – it doesn’t matter whether the privacy setting in your calendar has marked the event as private/public, Facebook can now see what you’re doing and when.
  • Read call log – Facebook can not only read who you’ve called, when, and how long for, it can keep a copy of the call log for its own purpose.
  • Write call log – not only can Facebook write entries to your call log, but it can cover its tracks if it wants to make a call without you knowing.

Full network access – This permission allows the Facebook app to create customised links.  Any data that the app has access to can now be uploaded without having to ask you.

Phone calls: Read phone status and identity.  In short, if you hadn’t given Facebook your phone number, they’re going to get it anyway.  Not only that, but also the serial number of your phone/tablet, and the type of device you’re using.  Not just whether it’s a phone/tablet, but the make and model of the device.

Default: Modify battery statistics.  If Facebook has used over half of your battery to turn on your 3G, upload your contacts, call logs, text messages and scour through your SD card, it can change the battery statistics to make you think another app has pillaged your battery instead.

System Tools: This can mean anything from adjusting your wallpaper, its size, expand/collapse the status bar, install shortcuts so you go to sponsors sites, read your sync settings, run at startup, or send sticky broadcasts.

Network communication: 

  • Facebook can now secretly download anything it wants to your phone/tablet.  Ideal for filling your SD card with videos from sponsors.
  • View WiFi connections, not only does Facebook know which network you’re connected to but it will see what time you connected/disconnected and potentially who else is on the network with you.  Facebook can see whether you’ve ever connected to McDonald’s or Starbucks WiFi.


Obviously people are aware of these permissions.  They’re shown before you’re able to install the app, but how many of us realise the implications of the permissions.  I’m aware that the above focuses on the negative and I’d like to think that even Facebook isn’t that nefarious when it comes to this sort of data farming, but there have been reports of Facebook selling our information, so who knows?

Each time Facebook changes the privacy settings everyone is up in arms about it.  We share it with everyone we know, the frustration dissipates and we continue sharing information in full knowledge of how it’s used.  We’ll use fake names, withhold our phone numbers, create email addresses exclusively for use with Facebook etc., but as outlined above it doesn’t matter.  Facebook can see your phone number, your real name and who you’ve talked to.  You can take all the steps you want to keep your personal information private but if you use the app it may all be a waste of time.

I just thought you might like to know.

Facebook Permissions

Facebook Permissions