Social media experts quell Facebook messenger privacy settings hysteria

The Facebook app makes a big change, and it's causing many users to fear their privacy will be violated.

Rumors about Facebook's ability to access your phone's camera and messages without your permission circulated across social media sites on Friday.

"If they're going to be private, they want to stay private," said Alisha Bell, a Loyola University student.

Try to message a friend through the Facebook app, and a personalized message will appear. It will say you now have to download a new app in order to send messages. With the change comes another set of privacy settings to agree to.

"You've got an Android application and you have an IOS application. When Facebook did the agreements with the providers they had to agree to everything and anything. So they signed off on it, and therefore as a Facebook user, you do too," explained Tulane University Communications Professor Ashley Nelson.

The number of features the app says it needs to access can be overwhelming: your identity, your contacts, your photos, and more. The list sent many Facebook users' imaginations running wild.

"Especially if you really don't understand it at all, they kind of, like, freak out cause they're like, 'oh, people are watching my Facebook,'" said Bell.

Editorials - with no expert sources or comments from Facebook itself - have gone viral with rumors., and Nelson said Facebook has been trying to get them under control.

"While there's a lot of misinformation right now, Facebook is actually doing a pretty good job of getting the right information out to the users trying to calm them down a bit and trying to explain, 'no, no, no, this has been blown out of proportion, things have been taken out of context,'" said Ashley Nelson.

Facebook posted this link on its website, which describes how users may see the new privacy notifications and what Facebook really means by them.

For example, it says the request to download files without your permission is so Facebook can pre-load content for your Newsfeed.

However, Loyola Communications Professor Andrew Nelson says the effort may be too little too late.

"I think clearly this incident shows us that Facebook really does need to communicate more clearly with its users and explain things to its users more clearly than it has in the past. That, of course, takes time and money," said Andrew Nelson.

Facebook is certainly not the only app that requests the extra access to your phone's features. Which is why, Andrew Nelson said, the key is to do your own research, read the often lengthy legal agreements thoroughly, and if you don't want to take the risk, just don't download the app and use the web-based version instead.

"I like to say that social media is like the old-fashioned post card. You're not always going to be completely private," said Andrew Nelson.

To see Facebook's explanation of the privacy settings click here.

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