21

Recently, it was unveiled that Facebook's application in mobile phones (and messenger) have access to data that you didn't consent in their collection.

Data that is completely unrelated to the existence of Facebook's and messenger's applications in the first place.

Data that include all your contacts in your phone and metadata about SMS messages you sent/received.

Now, if an application on the surface does one thing but actually does tracking and spying on you, it is considered spyware at least and malware in the worst.

How come there is no mention that Facebook's applications and network are at least spyware?

closed as primarily opinion-based by GdD, forest, Steffen Ullrich, Neil Smithline, Dmitry Grigoryev Apr 3 '18 at 14:22

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • Whether something is considered spyware is a matter of opinion. – DJClayworth Apr 3 '18 at 13:48
  • 1
    It is a publicly endorsed spyware, lol. – ferit Apr 3 '18 at 13:49
  • Where would that mention be? – Tom K. Apr 3 '18 at 14:25
  • 1
    I think given the implications, this question should be reopened, even if it is slightly off topic. – user1584421 Apr 3 '18 at 17:00
  • 1
    My intentions were to see the base minimum to consider something as spyware. Also, why the same features are judged differently based on popularity/budget – user1584421 Apr 3 '18 at 23:34
32

Very Simple, Facebook IS spyware.

It is also "Consensual" spyware...yeah, it's spying on you, but you agreed to it (even if you didn't read the agreement before checking the "I Agree" box), and it is probably safe to say, you 'enjoyed' the benefits of it, so most people (still) aren't really complaining about it.

As the public's understanding of just how invasive Facebook has become people are coming to terms with what they will and will not accept.

For the most part what it really comes down to is that Facebook is paying attention to what you do in order to target you with advertising for things you will like and to 'grow' it's network.

Think of it this way, if you like, for decades advertisers choose where to place beer commercials, dish soap ads, and other products based on who they thought would be watching TV. There are more beer commercials on CBS during a football game than on ABC during the news (though sometimes the news might make you reach for a beer...but I digress). Facebook has taken this to a new level.

For my part I am pleased that I don't get bombarded with feminine hygiene ads, but do get ads, and even coupons and invitations to events where the food, music and activities are more likely to be 'to my liking'.

More recently, however, Facebook has gotten into more 'censorship'... and IMHO that is bothersome. How much so? each Facebook user will have to decide for themselves. When you walk into the "mall" that is owned by Zuckerberg he does get to decide the rules...if you don't like them, you can always leave. But yes, he is watching.

  • 9
    This is more of a list of opinions than an answer to the question. – forest Apr 3 '18 at 12:57
  • 11
    OP invites opinion when asking about what Facebook is "Considered". Given there is no legal definition of what "spyware" is whether or not MS Word is or is not Spyware is a matter of opinion. I happen to believe I have, however, clearly supported my opinion with facts and rational explanation. – Cos Callis Apr 3 '18 at 12:59
  • 2
    Yes you're right. I think the issue is more with the question itself (which I flagged as "primarily opinion-based" for that very reason). – forest Apr 3 '18 at 13:00
4

If only people researched into the Facebook's actual business models, the allegations that they've been cooperating with government agencies and read the Terms and Conditions they accept no a whim would they then realise Facebook are basically allowed to do what they want with any user. The mass amount of data they collect even when not using their services is pretty astronomical, especially the many 'third parties' they share (sell) one's details to.

  • Do you have any evidence that Facebook sells data to "many third parties"? – Not Now Apr 3 '18 at 13:04
  • 3
    @NotNow forbes.com/sites/kathleenchaykowski/2018/03/29/… the fact they are now reducing the amount of data they share with data brokers says something... – Stephen King Apr 3 '18 at 13:08
  • 1
    @NotNow I thought that was common knowledge. They even sell to foreign governments. The latest scandal that broke was them selling information to a political firm. User data is their business model. You don't think they provide their service for free out of the good will of their hearts? – forest Apr 3 '18 at 13:09
  • 1
    @Stephen King isn't "selling" or "sharing" data and allowing to set ad campaigns in order to target specific categories of people with certain characteristics different? As far as I know, there is no way to "buy" information about any user from Facebook. – Not Now Apr 3 '18 at 13:14
  • 2
    @NotNow If you are a large data broker (like Intellius), then yes, you can "buy" information about any (all) users on Facebook. It's not people buying targeted ads on Facebook, it is people buying personal information (relationship information, private messages, etc). Welcome to America. – forest Apr 3 '18 at 13:15
4

Android has a detailed model for app permissions (and so does iOS as far as I know). The FB messenger on my phone has access to my camera, location, microphone and storage (Note the absence of texts, contacts, appointments, etc.). The app probably asked me to import my contacts at some point and I politely declined. Similarly, my OS will notify me when an app is actually using my location.

The difference with spyware: It doesn't ask, it doesn't tell. Now if the messenger app circumvented Android's permission model to grab my data, that would be a whole different story, but it doesn't. Don't opt-in to sharing your data if you don't want to share it.

  • 1
    The fact you can "unsubscribe" (imore.com/how-opt-out-facebook-data-sharing) from Facebook sharing information with data brokers but still likely have your data sold is a breach of the terms and conditions and, as a result, could consider Facebook to be Spyware. – Stephen King Apr 3 '18 at 13:33
  • What proof do we have that Google does not have a deal with Facebook about allowing FB apps (the client, Messenger, Instagram, WhatsApp, etc) to access Android features in secret? It's all business, and if both can profit from it, why not... – Juha Untinen Apr 3 '18 at 14:41
  • @JuhaUntinen Well Android is open source. Any "secret feature" like that would be spotted. – forest Apr 3 '18 at 19:01
2

That question can, in my opinion, not be answered in a fact-based, non-argumentative, non-opinion-based way. Why is it that a soldier is not considered a murderer, and a general is not considered a mass murderer? Why is it that governmental agencies are not considered criminal organizations? Why is it that bankers are not considered thieves?

What Facebook is doing, and has been doing ever since its inception, openly and without ever making a secret out of it, is collect and provide (and sell) data of any kind about its users, via any legal, half-legal, and not outright illegal means.

The user consents to that, and even actively provides the major part of that data because to all appearances, it is of utmost importance that some random person whom you don't know and whom you probably wouldn't want to know if you had ever met knows every detail of your life, no matter how uninteresting it may be. It is also most important to tell the entire world what you like and what you don't like, and where you've been this morning.

So... what's there to say about it, really?

Yes, sure, Facebook apps can be considered spyware. Yes, sure, the whole thing Facebook in and itself can be considered spyware. But that's just what you want. Using anything with the "f" label on it implies that you are OK with being spied on, it's what it is all about.

  • 3
    I consider soldiers to be murderers, bankers to be thieves, and governments to be criminal organizations. I know a lot of people who think the same. – forest Apr 3 '18 at 13:23
  • Answer is entirely argumentative and opinion...and entirely repetitive of answers already registered. (-1) – Cos Callis Apr 3 '18 at 13:47
  • @forest: such broad generalization casts you and that lot of people in very poor light. – Martin Argerami Apr 3 '18 at 17:26
  • 1
    @forest and Martin Argerami Such comments are unproductive and off topic...perhaps you should continue your conversation on Facebook – Cos Callis Apr 3 '18 at 22:31
2

Spyware is a term, which is used very seldom in the context of mobile apps. The main reason seems to be, that since the start of the mobile ecosystem the thing you call spyware (and what would be detected as spyware by PC virus scanners) is very common and quite accepted by users,app store owners and even phone manufacturers, which sometimes preinstall such apps.

If you log your network traffic and use Tools like XPrivacy on android, you will see that at least every second normal app accesses data like

  • Android Serial (almost every app)
  • SIM Serial
  • Line1Number
  • MAC address
  • WifiScanResults (SSIDs)
  • AdvertisingID (in the bought pro version of the app)

and many more which are not fully restricted by the standard permission management or included in a broad category which really is necessary for other functions of the app. In addition many apps sneak in permissions like GPS (some provide location based functions, others just ask anyway) and use it when you do not use location based functions (as seen using XPrivacy). There are reports (hard to verify) that some apps use a thirdparty wifi location api to avoid asking for the location permission and still locating the user.

The next thing are tracking services. I.e. every unity game connects to stats.unity3d.com before you see the first screen of the game. Many apps even without any facebook integration connect to graph.facebook.com and many se crashlytics.com which is contacted on the app start even if the app never crashed. There are some more analytics and advertising addresses which are often requested even in the advertisment free pro versions of apps.

When you now want to apply the PC definition of spyware, the app store is suddenly almost empty. This is also true for facebook and I believe the Facebook App is a very data hungry one, but it's still not uncommon.

On the other hand seems Whatsapp (by Facebook) to be quite humble and "only" access the contacts, where there is some justification by their model of a contact list. While you may not like the model and may suspect data collection on their servers it's obvious that they need the access if they do not want to restructure the complete app.

So what is the conclusion? The mobile app universe has different privacy standards, probably because it has many users who do not know what's happening, do not know why it may be dangerous and do not care about it.

And as the environment was created when these users where the main consumers it could grow this way while the PC ecosystem was created when users cared about what's happening in the background and were more tech savvy.

On the other hand, the PC users start to care less as well. When Windows 98 introduced an online update function people complained about windows sending data about their PC hardware to Microsoft. Now have a look at Windows 10 and what you need to do to stop it from phoning home. And ads in different windows applications and much more which were not possible back in the days.


So the answer is: The people who do not consider the Facebook app to be spyware are the people who do not consider Facebook to spy on them. Either they do not consider the data private or they trust facebook.

Some do not know what's happening, but most people which heard what Facebook is doing either said they have nothing to hide, its only Facebook and not their neighbor who can see the data, or that Facebook has the data anyway.

  • "Either they do not consider the data private or they trust facebook." I would argue 80% of these people are simply too ignorant to even consider Facebook as spyware. – Stephen King Apr 3 '18 at 14:27
  • I guess this is (like the whole question) opinion based. There are different explanations for different types of people, some may not understand the problem, some may not want to think about it because it would imply leaving facebook, some may think facebook has everything anyway, some may not see a point in protecting their data ... I think there is quite a range of ways people think about it. Maybe OP should have introduced who should judge it by which definition as spyware. I.e. some court could possibly decide it's spyware by applying some law. – allo Apr 3 '18 at 14:32

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.