The Facebook Messenger app has become widely used since its introduction owing to the convenience of being able to use the messaging functionality of the website version on a smart phone, but revelations about the unadvertised features have created massive resistance in users. People are beginning to question how much of their privacy they are having to sacrifice in order to enjoy the convenience of the service, and many are deciding that it is more than they are willing to do. Across the country and the world, users are removing the app from their phones and finding other, less invasive ways to communicate.
First in Europe, and then in the United States, Facebook took advantage of their captive audience and virtually forced users to switch to the Facebook Messenger app, trusting the desire to have mobile access to friends from that platform to overcome all reservations. It has worked to a large extent, with a reported 38 percent of the global mobile messaging market using the app. The features of the app are undeniably attractive to users who want to have access to their Facebook friends on a constant basis, and the numbers support the value to the company of having made the move to leverage the strength of the platform to launch it. Speculation has been circulating that the Facebook Messenger move was simply a next step in expanding their foray into the standalone app market, and that may prove to be true, but indications are that there are more expansion plans for the Messenger app which are already written in but not yet activated.
In July, CEO Mark Zuckerberg made the statement that the Facebook Messenger app was possibly moving into the arena of having the ability to send payments via the app, but that it was a long way off from being implemented. A highly publicized hack into the app, however, shows that the platform for that payment system is already in place on the version for iOS currently operating. Screenshots released on the internet outing this “secret” payment platform have sparked a lot of people’s interest and a lot of speculation about the plans for the app. The leak may add fuel to the fire of those already resisting the Facebook Messenger app and the massive number of permissions downloading it requires. People are already feeling duped into allowing access to far more information and control at the moment, and the discovery of the undisclosed payment platform might trigger even more feelings of distrust. For the moment, the numbers are there to suggest widespread acceptance, but Facebook has always been a forum to take grassroots movements to a worldwide audience. In this case, there is the potential for that to work against them. Already there are numerous YouTube videos, both from private users and of news media reports, publicizing the privacy concerns associated with the installation of Facebook Messenger. This latest revelation may bring out more conspiracy theorists in droves. While the details released about this payment system do not point specifically to additional security problems, access to debit card information on an app already besieged with concerns about invasion of privacy may be a hard sell.
At present, Facebook Messenger still enjoys enough market share to justify continuing as they are. In the face of the massive amount of growing resistance which is picking up steam, there may yet be changes ahead forced on the company to avoid losing that 38 percent share.
By Jim Malone