How Safe Is Chat Messaging on Facebook?
By Micah McDunnigan
Facebook has implemented many features to make it a hub of its users' Internet experience, and its chat messaging service is no different. When it comes to the safety of chatting on Facebook, the platform is not an inherent security risk to your devices. However, you still need to exercise caution against phishing attacks and consider the privacy implications that come with putting any personal information on Facebook.
Just because you are receiving a Facebook chat message from your friend's account does not necessarily mean that it is your friend you are speaking with. The personal information and access to Facebook friends that comes from compromising a Facebook account makes them attractive targets for hackers. Consequently, the privacy and security of your chat messages depend on how well the other users you chat with secure their accounts.
Simply receiving messages through Facebook's chat system in your browser, or on the mobile app, does not pose a risk of infection to your computer. The message is simply text on a screen, and a chat message cannot coax Facebook into attacking your device. If you are using a third party instant messaging client to log into Facebook chat, however, you need to investigate if the client has any security vulnerabilities which hackers could exploit.
While Facebook chat messages cannot directly attack your computer, the chat service can be a platform for phishing. If messages from a stranger – or a Facebook account which a hacker has compromised – contain links or files, then those websites or documents could infect your computer with malware. Ignoring links from strangers is easy, but hackers often exploit the fact that people are less vigilant about potentially suspicious links or documents perceived to have come from their friends.
Facebook keeps records of all your activity on their site. This means that all your conversations will be a permanent fixture within Facebook's databases. Once you send something, the long-term security of that chat message is up to Facebook. Hackers that penetrate Facebook's security could get their hands on your chat transcripts. Furthermore, glitches in new Facebook features have exposed private messages before developers fixed the bugs.
Micah McDunnigan has been writing on politics and technology since 2007. He has written technology pieces and political op-eds for a variety of student organizations and blogs. McDunnigan earned a Bachelor of Arts in international relations from the University of California, Davis.