Facebook admits to using app to spy on text messages

Tony Goreczny, Staff Writer

Most people are well aware of George Orwell’s 1984, and more specifically the character of Big Brother, the embodiment of tyrannical government control achieved through a complete and utter lack of privacy. Well, if the government is conceptualized as Big Brother, then Facebook must that annoying, nosy cousin who you don’t really want to spend time with, but your parents make you do so anyways.

According to a report by The (London) Sunday Times, Facebook has been using the access granted by it’s app to read user’s personal text-messages. As surprising as this may seem, Facebook isn’t the only company who has admitted to doing this. Other companies, including Flickr and Yahoo have been snooping into your personal lives as well.

Don’t think it stops at text-messages either. Certain apps can intercept and listen in on your phone calls, and the YouTube app can access your camera at anytime to capture pictures or video without asking your permission. In 1984 the government monitored us though our television screens, In 2012 corporations track us through our cell phones.

Governments are well aware of these capabilities as well. Though ours does not constantly monitor the messages and calls of the average person, it has the ability to access your phone and do all sorts of fun things. Including reading text-messages, listening to calls, accessing your GPS locator, gaining control of your camera, and even turning on your phone’s microphone. Even if your phone is turned off, someone, somewhere can simply press a button to turn it on and create a window through which they can see the most personal and private aspects of your life.

While this is a crux of modern technology that we must live with, it is the government’s job protect a person’s privacy, not to infiltrate it. Though there are laws in place to help protect phone records and prevent wiretapping, the legislature has been unable to keep up with the incredible growth rate of mobile communication technology. There are currently no laws specifically restricting what an entity can or cannot do with your smartphone through installed apps.

According to Lawyers.com, courts have deemed it inappropriate for government officials to track people through the GPS locators in their smartphones. The only exception to this is when a person with a GPS equipped cell phone calls an enhanced 911 service, so that emergency responders may more easily locate and provide assistance to the victim or victims. Well what about corporations?

The government must protect people’s privacy not only from itself, but also from other people. According to the Supreme Court rulings in Dartmouth College v. Woodward and Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad, corporations are people. As such, they should not only be afforded the protections given to people, but adhere to the restrictions which confine them as well.

The actions of Facebook, Youtube, and the other implicated companies are an egregious invasion of privacy. Not only should the have to answer for these abuses, but permanent protections should put in place to protect a person’s privacy from the proclivities, and propensities of profligate people looking only to profit from the penetration of an individual’s personal and private passions.