Yesterday, Facebook rolled out a new custom environment for Android that frankly comes off less like a “family” of apps and more like Facebook has finally figured out how to grope your phone using software.
But how handsy is Facebook getting, precisely, if you install Facebook Home? We used the traditional method to determine such things, and here the features are, from least creepy to most, excluding Facebook Camera since most of us have our phone cameras connected to our Facebooks or Instagram accounts anyway.
5. Chat Heads
You’d think a disembodied head floating over the app you’re using would be pretty disturbing, but really all this is doing is mixing together your text messaging and Facebook Messenger usage. It’s a terrible name, but it’s not a bad idea, if a little intrusive. But then again, Facebook Home is all about being intrusive, as we’ll see.
4. The App Launcher
To give you an idea of just how much Facebook is front and center here, if you look closely at photos of the App Launcher, across the top there are buttons to write a status, share a photo, or check in. In other words, even when you want to get the hell away from Facebook, Facebook does not want you to get the hell away from Facebook.
You even have to click your Facebook profile picture just to get at your apps. Really.
3. The Cover Feed
Honestly, booting up your phone and seeing what your friends are up to doesn’t sound that bad, until you stop and consider that this means you’ll be subjected to everything your friends are up to. You no longer get to choose when you log in to Facebook, you’re already logged in, and already looking at it, first thing, because don’t you love Facebook? Facebook loves you. Why won’t you return Facebook’s love?
Oh, and also the damn thing will feature ads, because of course it will. So the first thing you might see on booting your phone is a sponsored post for zit cream. Awesome.
2. Notifications On Your Lockscreen
To understand just how creepy, invasive, and annoying this is going to be, you need to look at how Facebook is pitching Home to developers:
People will receive bigger, bolder notifications from you right on their phone home screen. We’ve made improvements to notifications to make them more engaging and easier for people to interact with. It’s never been easier to reengage with people using your app.
Yes, Facebook Home will shovel big fat heapin’ helpin’s of spam right on your lockscreen. Right there! Sitting there! Forcing you to deal with them whether you want to or not! Because Facebook notifications weren’t already clinging with all the tenacity of a wood tick, or anything. Facebook actually has the cojones to put a photo of game spam on your lock screen in the promotional materials for developers.
And now, one notably missing feature…
1. The Total Lack Of Any Privacy Controls
You’d think a company with a privacy record as terrible as Facebook’s would have something about whether or not installing Facebook Home would mean, oh, we don’t know, some details about what the apps do under the hood. And you’d be wrong!
There’s no discussion of privacy. Does Facebook track your app activity if you use Home? They’re not telling! Do your privacy settings on Facebook the site carry over to Facebook Home? Possibly! Does it geolocate you? Facebook Home speaks only to master!
Considering Facebook’s track record, which can be boiled down to “Better to ask forgiveness than permission”, it’s fairly safe to assume Facebook Home is spyware to some degree or another. It would be nice if Facebook was actually up front about this. But, of course, they’re not, and inevitably somebody is going to take this thing apart and find something that shouldn’t be there.
The moral of the story? Stick with the creepy invasive corporation you know; at least Google and Apple are a bit more honest when they go for the bad touch.