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Sunday, August 10, 2014

FaceBook Apps On Your Droid ~ Convenience, Contact, Bloat & Privacy

Intro / Background:

I don't blog often but feel I should explain some of the new FaceBook app strategies and subsequent required permissions for their installation & use, which have some people “freaked.” Also discussed will be overall space use vs benefits and a suggestion that works for me. As a Real Estate photographer in Palm Springs CA, staying in contact using several mediums is important but I also value privacy AND efficiency.

When I was a child I remember my Dad and I getting into the elevator at Sears in Del Amo Mall, Torrance. The “Pet Rock” craze was in full swing, and the 2nd floor was where the elusive pets could be found & purchased. My Dad overheard people on the lift talking about them, and said in an overt “loud whisper,” ~ “I hear you can get little sweaters for them.” THREE people wheeled around and said “WHERE?!?!” My Dad and I almost collapsed with laughter.

Fads come and go. I hope you're sitting down, but FaceBook is a fad and it will probably be the equivalent of “Atari” or “Pet Rock” in 5-10 years. While it's here, people lately have pretty much forgotten the days of yore when they checked FB on a COMPUTER browser. Now it MUST be on their phone. I mean for God's sake, if you miss a lolcat or even worse don't know IMMEDIATELY that Mrs. Nesbitt commented on your checkin at “The Osso Buco Palace” or recommended a Greek endive vinaigrette … all will be lost! There would simply be no use in carrying on. I know precisely ONE person who has built several business around “FaceBook Networking,” and that's Amy Akins. I'll provide a link to her Vintage Junque Like Page below. Amy has taken FaceBook to levels seldom seen, and I marvel almost daily at her use of it. I think she could run General Motors from FB. MOST people just don't need that level of “on top of it,” unless of course they're just plain addicted. In contrast, FB often just gives me a depression headache after 5 minutes, but yet I'm a Google Plus / Pinterest / Instagram freak. To each their own.

Permissions, What They Are, and Why They Sound Scary:

When you install an app it needs functionality, and therefore access, to some of your phone's processes. Messenger, for example, now has an icon of a “telephone,” and you can make CALLS within that application to people you message. For THAT reason it needs “phone dialer permission.” You can also have it replace your standard texting/messaging application .. so oila, it needs “to be able to read and send texts.” There is nothing Satanic about these permissions, but starting about 3 months ago (and more recently for the out of touch) there has been a plethora of fear mongering and handwringing anxiety about whether installing “Messenger” violates your privacy.

Personally, part of my love / hate relationship (mostly the former) with FaceBook is it's incredible battery usage, bloating footprint on the phone, and use of RAM resources. As of today the FaceBook app install is 39.4MB .. which when installed becomes close to 90MB. That would be fine (although it rivals the entire Chrome browser in installed size). Unfortunately it continues to bloat with “data,” which is NOT stored in a clearable cache. You can clear the data and sign in again (basically emulating a fresh install) but that fragments data / app footprint and could result in slowness or freezing. So best to uninstall / reinstall, and I found myself doing it once a week. Within 48 hours it was back to almost 200MB. This is IMO crazy for a single application. Pages Manager isn't much better, 60MB, but I understand folks like Amy needing a proper Like Page Manager to control/edit/manage not one but perhaps several like pages.

Along comes FaceBook Messenger, which in Facebook's view will soon be the ONLY way to send/receive messages from FB friends. Messaging will in all likelihood be removed from the FaceBook app proper. This to me is a GOOD thing for 2 reasons. 1) Removing messaging from the FB app itself would reduce its size and probably data storage, make it leaner/meaner, and probably quicker. 2) Most of us who want immediate notification of a FB message have had Messenger in addition to the FB app for a while. It also yields other benefits.

For months I had all 3: FaceBook, Pages Manager, and Messenger. At a cost of 300MB footprint and almost 15% (FIFTEEN PERCENT!) of available RAM being taken up at ALL times while the phone was on. No wonder folks are having shorter battery life. In another blog soon I'll discuss services that can be reset to factory and turned OFF to make your battery last about 20% longer. I have a Samsung Galaxy Note 3, with an outstanding battery .. and I can see the difference plainly when these apps are not installed.

So what to do?

Personally I've given the “permissions” and KEPT FaceBook Messenger, at a cost of only 36MB installed with instant messaging notification from FB friends. I've UNINSTALLED (for now, I often vacillate and reinstall if I'm using it more often) the FaceBook app and Pages Manager apps. In doing so, I freed up 13% of RAM, plus 260MB+ of space, and all my other apps run better. I don't care how much “free space” you have. I have 32GB, and 23.5GB still free. I still don't want bloat where I don't need it. Instead I have a simple bookmark for FaceBook and use the web version on my phone. Getting back to the pet rock and FaceBook on our computer .. you know, it wouldn't kill most of us to spend 30 minutes in the morning and/or evening on a computer viewing FaceBook. There's nothing in stone saying you HAVE TO check it on your phone every 5 minutes. The possible exception are people like Amy who use it as a daily tool .. and so I recommend you allow the Messenger permissions so you don't miss an important contact.

MANY APPS require permissions that seem intrusive or weird. Get a QR Code Reader and it will want camera permission. That doesn't mean it's taking underwear selfies for you while you're asleep. It needs the camera to view and decode the QR codes. So it is with Messenger; if you're allowed to make a phone call from within the app, it's going to need the phone. You have to allow that. Permissions are not selective, it's an all or nothing YES or NO. If that bothers you, no Messenger for you :-) But bear this in mind .. posting an Instagram pic from home with your GPS & “tagging” on just gave away WHERE YOU LIVE. That is only one example of a far greater security risk than the chance the esteemed and brilliant Mr. Zuckerberg is listening to you ordering a pizza. As for content of your messages, THAT is where you control your privacy. I have never trusted ANY messaging service, Twitter, FB or otherwise, in transmitting personal data right down to a phone number or home address. NO ONE knows where that text is “stored or looked at” on a server. However, Messenger requiring permissions to do its job is NOT a security “threat” in my opinion.

Happy messaging, thanks for the Osso Buco Palace checkin, I'll be in the grey raincoat & sunglasses. As Jason Bourne put it so well … “Get some rest, Pam. You look tired.” ;-p

Amy's Like Page on FaceBook:

My Like Page on FaceBook: