At its F8 developer conference last week, Facebook announced a new feature for its Messenger chat service called “Business on Messenger.” The goal of the feature, according to the site, is to streamline communications between companies and consumers by combining things like customer service, package tracking and order changes onto one platform. While it could undoubtedly save time for businesses and customers alike, it could also come with considerable privacy concerns, as pointed out by Troy Wolverton of the San Jose Mercury News.
“My fear is that Business on Messenger could make chat services look more like email,” he wrote. “Once a company has my Facebook profile and the right to contact me via Messenger, what’s to stop them from using that channel to send out unsolicited promotional messages as well?”
Facebook said that companies will not be allowed to contact consumers on Messenger without permission, and users will be able to mark messages as spam or turn off notifications from certain companies. However, another serious privacy issue could arise from the kinds of information that users would share on the feature.
“It gives Facebook the ability to collect even more information about us by eavesdropping on interactions that previously would have taken place away from its watchful eyes,” Wolverton continued. “In the future, if it doesn’t yet have this information already, Facebook could know what books we’re buying, what hotels we’re staying at and when we’re on a trip.”
Fortunately, Facebook users will have to opt in to Business on Messenger to use it, so don’t expect unsolicited spam on the service any time soon.