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Facebook Messenger found to be tracking 'a lot more data than you think'

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 "Messenger appears to have more spyware type code in it than I've seen in products intended specifically for enterprise surveillance," says iOS forensics and security researcher Jonathan Zdziarski. (Facebook)

In August, Facebook announced that it would no longer be allowing its users to communicate via private message on mobile phones without first downloading its proprietary "Messenger" app.

Many of the social network's users were annoyed -- if not outraged -- to learn that the free app was "mandatory" if they wanted to continue using Facebook on the go.

Some refused to download the app, claiming that the situation had prompted them to quit Facebook altogether.

Millions more, on the other hand, bit the bullet and reluctantly complied with the social network's request --  many of them, despite serious privacy concerns.

A month later, Facebook Messenger has reportedly been downloaded more than 500,000 times for Android devices alone. It also remains the number one most downloaded free app on the Canadian iTunes App Store.

Some of those who downloaded the app may be thinking twice this week about keeping the app around, however, in light of one iOS forensics and security researcher's recent assertions that Messenger is tracking more data than most people realize.

"Messenger appears to have more spyware type code in it than I've seen in products intended specifically for enterprise surveillance," tweeted Jonathan Zdziarski, a noted author and expert in iOS related digital forensics and security on Tuesday.

Several of his tweets previous to this shed light upon what he found while disassembling Facebook Messenger's iOS binary. 

In an email to VICE's Motherboard, Zdziarksi told reporter Matthew Braga that Facebook logs "practically everything a user might do within the app." 

"[Facebook is] using some private APIs I didn't even know were available inside the sandbox to be able to pull out your WiFi SSID (which could be used to snoop on which WiFi networks you're connected to) and are even tapping the process list for various information on the device," he wrote.

News of Zdziarski's findings spread swiftly around the web this week, prompting Facebook to issue the following statement:

"These accusations are completely unjustified. Privacy is core to our approach with Messenger, and like any developer, we analyze usage trends to make our apps better, faster, and more efficient. As an example, with regard to what and where people tap - when we noticed that people were using the 'Like' stickers a lot, we modified the app so that people could send them with fewer taps."

Are you concerned by the amount of data collected by Facebook Messenger? If so, did you refuse to download the app, or have you deleted it recently? Weigh in below with your thoughts.

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