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Security researcher finds Facebook Messenger is loaded with ‘spyware type code’ [updated]

Updated Sep 11th, 2014 12:35PM EDT
Facebook Messenger App Privacy

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As if you didn’t already have enough reasons to hate Facebook Messenger, now you have another one. Security researcher Jonathan Zdziarski tells Motherboard that he spent some time picking apart Facebook Messenger earlier this week and found that it’s positively loaded with “spyware type code” designed to track everything you do.

FROM EARLIER: Facebook’s annoying plan to make everyone use its messaging app sparks a big backlash

“In an email, Zdziarski said that Messenger is logging practically everything a user might do within the app, from what and where they tap, to how often a device is held in portrait versus landscape orientation; even time spent in the Messenger app, versus the time it spends running in the background,” writes Motherboard.

Zdziarski also says that the amount of spyware-esque code he’s found in Facebook Messenger is uncommon even in the enterprise surveillance software he’s worked on in the past.

Facebook greatly annoyned many of its users this past summer when it decided to strip the chat functionality from its mothership mobile app and instead force users to use the separate Facebook Messenger app to chat with friends. The app has also been criticized for asking users for a ridiculous number of app permissions, including the ability to record audio and video and to directly call phone numbers in your contacts list.

UPDATE: A Facebook Messenger engineer has responded to Zdziarski’s findings on Twitter and she claims that Facebook is using all the analytics collected by Messenger to “make the app faster and more efficient.” For example, she said that “analytics showed us people were using Like stickers a bunch, so we moved that feature so people can send in fewer taps.”

Facebook has also provided us with this official response: “These accusations are completely unjustified. Privacy is core to our approach with Messenger, and like any developer, we analyze usage trends to make our apps better, faster, and more efficient. As an example, with regard to what and where people tap – when we noticed that people were using the ‘Like’ stickers a lot, we modified the app so that people could send them with fewer taps.

Brad Reed
Brad Reed Staff Writer

Brad Reed has written about technology for over eight years at and Network World. Prior to that, he wrote freelance stories for political publications such as AlterNet and the American Prospect. He has a Master's Degree in Business and Economics Journalism from Boston University.