Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Facebook Is Broken

Warning:  The following is a rant, so if you’re not in the mood, skip it.

Facebook is broken.  Yeah, I realize I am just the latest in a long, long line of complainers, but still.  I had planned on leaving Facebook this week.  This saddened me, because I actually use Facebook, not as a measure of popularity or a method for sharing my life (which, let’s face it, simply isn’t that important or that interesting.)  No, I use it as a way of connecting with dear friends from my past who are often too far away to communicate with easily in any other way.  Some are literally on the other side of the world (hello, New Zealand and Australia!!)  I also use Facebook in several of my hobbies, most notably to learn new techniques for prop-making and to see the handiwork of other people with the same interest, most of whom are far more talented than I am.  This is great, because it inspires me to try harder and do better.

In short, I use it, probably pretty much the way most of my friends use it.

But Facebook itself is making it an untenable option for these things.  And as I said, that saddened me greatly, because I only recently reconnected with many of those folks and then found myself preparing to say goodbye.

The reason, of course, is the new Facebook Messenger app.  Facebook wants to pull the chat function out of the standard Facebook app and make it a separate thing.  It would be bad enough that you now have to use two things where once you only needed to use one.  But the new thing, the Messenger app, invades privacy to an egregious degree.  

Facebook has always had issues with privacy.  They have access to your personal profile information, and, in the fine print, have the right to do pretty much whatever they want to do with it.  Some of that has changed over the years, as particularly invasive assaults were identified and made public, but the personal profile information is still in play.  All you have to do is load your Facebook page and you’ll likely see ads for the last product you looked at on Amazon, or eBay, or even ThinkGeek.  You’ll see promotions for the last movie whose showtimes you checked, or the last college where your high schooler wanted to apply.  It’s pretty scary, when you stop to think about it.

Facebook Messenger would be even worse.  The app requires that you give it “permissions” which include giving Facebook access to your texts, giving Facebook the ability to send texts on your device, and giving Facebook the ability to MAKE CALLS on your device.  Messenger would have access to find your mail and phone accounts, to use your personal contacts list, and to access ALL of your other text messages.

Let me say that again.  With this app, Facebook gets the ability to make calls and to send and receive texts ON YOUR PHONE OR TABLET.  And to read all your other mail.

According to Google Play, the app has “access to find accounts on the device, read contacts, access the user’s [account], as well as edit, read and receive text messages.  Other permissions give Facebook the ability to directly call phone numbers, modify or delete files on USB storage, take pictures and videos, receive audio, download files without notification, control vibration [on the device] and change network connectivity.”

Holy crap.  At least buy me dinner first.

So I was on the verge of leaving altogether, despite regretting losing the renewed contact with distant friends.  Then I stumbled across a fairly simple workaround, at least for now.

I only use Facebook on my iPhone’s internet browser.  I do NOT use the Facebook app.  Yes, it’s smaller, and more annoying, and a bit more cumbersome.  But the features and information that I want are there, and I have a lot more control over what my browser will and will not allow.  It certainly will never give the Facebook page access to my camera or let it send texts and make calls.

The Facebook app is gone from my phone and from my iPad, and for good.  And they have only themselves to blame.

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