Just How Private are Facebook Messenger Rooms?
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Just How Private are Facebook Messenger Rooms?
Facebook Messenger is the second most downloaded chat app out there with WhatsApp being the most popular. Both Apps are owned by the same parent company Meta.
In 2018, Facebook launched its Messenger Rooms App. Messenger Rooms is a video chat app which enables its users to participate in chat meetings with up to 50 participants.
This recently published blog outlines how Facebook deals with its privacy and security measures to underpin the credibility of the app. The blog doesn’t mince its words, clearly targeting its rival Zoom and outlines why people should consider avoiding Zoom and make the switch to Messenger Rooms.
However, when Facebook explains the details concerning “privacy” in Rooms, it aligns this with things like the blocking feature or having the ability to report people, plus other options which include “locking” a room as a means to stopping people who are uninvited from crashing your virtual meeting.
Although, given that the same Facebook policies are in place as far as data collection goes, this means that your private information is likely to be shared with third parties, which in our opinion, does not offer much privacy at all.
According to Rowenna Fielding from Protecture, who oversees the individual rights and ethics of her employers' organisation, adjusting your privacy settings on Facebook does not necessarily protect users from the exploitation of their private data.
Fielding is quoted as saying that “Data profiling and the mining of user's private information reaches directly into the very core of Facebooks business model, whereby the ethics of these practices are seldom scrutinized or governed by authorities and continue to remain as such.”
How does Facebook define its privacy policies?
Erin Egan, who is tasked with the implementation of Facebook privacy policies says that “Messenger Rooms have been developed with privacy in mind.”
Joining a Messenger Room does not require participants to have a Facebook account, and this is one of the positive features of Rooms. However, the creator of a Messenger Room is required to be on Facebook. Egan explains that the creator of the Room is authorised to control the Rooms settings features permitting who can and can’t join, and whether or not the Room itself can be found online or shared to others via a link to the Room.
In contrast to Zoom, known as Zoom Bombing, Messenger Rooms has the ability to lock the Room hence preventing people from interrupting a call mid-way through a meeting. Further, the Room moderator or creator has the capacity to ban and remove unwanted or nuisance participants. Additionally, Messenger Rooms are not able to be searched by the Room name within Facebook itself.
Accordingly, Facebook Rooms privacy definition relates to various features such as blocking and reporting its users plus the ability to lock rooms. According to Facebook: “In either scenario of using Rooms via your Facebook account, or if you are using Rooms as a guest, we will not watch, record, or capture any video or audio calls when using Facebook Messenger Rooms.”
It goes onto say: “Facebook works with third party vendors across our services to assist us with addressing and monitoring user-generated issues, these vendors may at times share such information among users of the room and those who have participated in the room etc in order for use to enhance the user experience.”
Facebook also states: “In line with the other parts of Facebook, we gather data from Messenger Rooms irrespective of the entry point of access to our Facebook products whether it be via one of our apps as a guest log in or via an established account. The aim with these policies for data collection has always been to improve the experience when using our products.”
In situations where users log into Facebook products without using a Facebook account, the company says it may gather data in relation to things like your device used or browser used to attain access to Facebook and additional usage information relating to technical details.
Facebook acknowledges how video and audio footage within Messenger Rooms will not be used it the creation or distribution of ads. The company goes on to explain how ads are not shown within Messenger Rooms.
To this day, Facebook stands by its claims in that they will not, and never have sold any personal information to “anyone.”
When it comes to the service-privacy concerning mega tech giants, and appeasing their users, it all comes down to how they are marketing their service which in some cases isn’t entirely accurate.
These marketing departments will often try and demonstrate the ability to advertise their privacy features in the form of offering a platform to report users and enabling blocking features.
However, for most people, privacy concerns are typically aligned with the sharing of sensitive data to third parties, which according to Facebook, happens in the form data sharing via their partners according to cybersecurity expert Jake Moore.
Furthermore, according to Moore, the sharing capabilities within the Facebook platform far exceeds the sharing capabilities found in Zoom. “The Zoom platform has sharing limitations compared to Facebook. Zoom has limitations which only allow users to share basic details such as email addresses and names. In contrast, Facebook enables users to also share public information from your social media profiles.”
It’s worth mentioning that Zoom and Facebook Messenger - of which Messenger Rooms is built on, do not provide end-to-end encryption. Although if we look at Facebook-owned the WhatsApp platform in contrast to Messenger Rooms and Zoom, WhatsApp is end-to-end encrypted and also offers group video functionality.
Is Messenger Rooms Worth Using?
Messenger Rooms is a relatively new service that has appealing functionality, but is it worth using and switching over from Zoom? Or is Messenger Rooms a nightmare regarding privacy concerns? The decision to switch may come down to whether or not you trust Facebook when compared to its rivals such as Zoom.
Facebook has been scrutinized in the past when questions were left unanswered as to why Facebook was not being clear and open regarding contractors translating and listening to Messenger audio calls according to this article.
The super-tech giant Facebook may be convinced how Messenger Rooms is a legitimate alternative to other leading video meeting platforms, and in many cases, it is just that. Although if you do not require higher privacy features and plan to use Messenger Rooms to host, for example, a boot camp class, then Messenger Rooms could be for you.
However, by not offering its users end-to-end encryption could be a deal breaker should you decide you need to host online meetings which require more sensitive privacy features. In such circumstances then you may need to skip Messenger Rooms.
At the end of the day, Facebook stills collects data from the use of all their services, and would seem like it’s not all that private, particularly if you require a more secure and private chat platform.