Facebook, the social network that boasts more than a billion worldwide users, recently announced that it will require users to have the separate Facebook Messenger app in order to use its instant messaging and voice-calling service. While the Facebook Messenger app has been around since 2011, the recently-released version features enhanced communications and productivity features for on-the-go users, and the app promises to help people stay in touch through Facebook via voice, text, and video. By any measure, the transition to the Facebook Messenger mobile app is a big deal for companies trying to simultaneously push Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies while balancing security.
A growing trend in social networks
As social networks like Facebook continue to grow and diversify, they are seeking new ways to collect and utilize user data. The push towards big data has spawned a number of breakout features and applications, which are now added to the clutter of apps already used for day-to-day life. The Facebook Messenger app is among this new breed of 1:1 communications apps designed to quickly connect users to important contacts.
Terms of Service issues
Facebook’s desire to collect user data for advertising purposes has never been more apparent than in the Facebook Messenger app. Like cloud-based storage and collaboration providers promising security but hedging those promises with dubious terms of service, new instant messaging protocols subject data on a mobile device to outside scrutiny – with or without company permission.
BYOD policies may exacerbate the challenge
With Facebook pushing its new Messenger app into the hands of millions worldwide, it should be no surprise to IT professionals and executives that the app is likely to already be on a majority of employees’ BYOD-covered phones. While there is no evidence that Facebook is collecting sensitive documents and data from these devices, there are few technical barriers to prevent them from harvesting and utilizing data to serve more targeted ads or simply quantify the app’s user base.
Meeting an emerging challenge head-on
Begin by updating corporate policies to reflect what’s really going on in the marketplace. Social messaging apps promise a better communications experience for employees, but at a great potential risk to sensitive data. Implement a system for collaboration that makes following protocol simple, then continue to educate and push for adoption. Getting ahead of the trend will leave the company less vulnerable to data breaches and more in touch with modern IT needs.