Smartphones these days tend to be more about the "smart" and less about the phone. With all the cool apps and features we can use on our devices, the phone almost seems an afterthought. Facebook must have felt the same way when it decided to design its new Hello Android app. For those who haven't heard, Hello is a free dialer app for your smartphone that Facebook claims you can use for caller ID, blocking calls, and local searches.
The reviews to date have been positive. That's the glass half full portion of our story. But the tale doesn't end here. This is Facebook, with the history of Facebook, and the reputation of Facebook. Add all of that together and the glass quickly empties, leaving the backwash at the bottom. Here's why.
First off, when in the entire history of Facebook has it focused its time, developers, and research on the greater good without asking for a whole bunch of something in return? Like any other business, Facebook is a business. There's no fault in that. And business is about supply and demand, give and take. All Facebook wants to talk about is the give, which here means a fun and useful app. The take however, is your truly private information, listened to, watched, stored forever, analyzed, and sold to data collectors.
If you go to the Google store to download the app, be sure and click on the "Permissions" link. That link will show you what you are consenting to by using this app. You are giving Hello permission to do the following and more on your phone:
• Read your contacts
• Read your contact card
• Identify your current location
• Read your text messages (SMS or MMS)
• Read your call log
• Read the contents of your USB storage
Some of those are the normal ones that allow any App to function. But reading my text messages, everything stored on my phone, my call logs . . . that's a lot of reading and while Facebook would say this is to collect data so the app can accurately identify calls, you have to wonder. Facebook does everything for data - it is the heroin that keeps them high and mighty. Really, it feels like another creepy chapter in the company's random glad bag of underhanded actions such as:
Let's focus on that last fact for a second, because it's very relevant here. Last year, Facebook released an app that uses a smartphone's microphone to listen in on the music and media you're streaming. The carrot to the public is a fun and simple way to quickly post updates about your pop culture interactions. Again, that's the give.
The take is what Facebook does with your digital footprint. It collects your data and stashes it away. Forever. It shares it with data miners, governments, and whoever else. That's another day at the office for Facebook. Making matters worse, this app transitioned data collection from following you online to listening to you outside of it. What mindset would think that's a good idea?
So now let's return to Hello. There are already other dialer apps in the marketplace. But whereas Facebook positions this as an opportunity to enrich your world, the truth is it provides another opportunity to invade it. Do you want Facebook listening in on your phone conversations? That's not background music anymore. Now it's our thoughts and words, which Facebook, if following its historical path, could sell to the highest bidder.
The only sense, outside of common, that has eluded Facebook to date is smell, making you wonder if there's not a scent-reading app in the company's future. Such privacy abuses were never the intention of technology. Technology transforms and innovates. It can achieve that and more without violating and selling out our rights. To get there requires people using apps that support that philosophy. Polls show the people want privacy with their technology. That's why companies are building privacy by design into their wares. As a leading privacy advocate I know this well, which is why privacy-by-design (PbD) is a core engineering philosophy of MeWe, a new kind of social communication network. What we can all do is take actions and choose companies that respect us as their customers, not products to sell.
As a final note and an interesting one, it's very telling that Hello isn't available as an Apple app. Why? Because iOS doesn't let apps play with phone permissions such as would be needed for Hello. There's a reason for that you know, just as there should be a reason to doubt the altruism behind this new app. Hello? Try goodbye and good night.
-- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.