Facebook’s phone number caper

If you’re on Facebook, one of your friends has probably posted this ominous warning about the latest alleged Facebook privacy violation:


REPOST: ALL THE PHONE NUMBERS IN YOUR PHONE are now on Facebook. No joke – go to the top right of the screen, click on Account, then click on Edit Friends, go left on the screen and click on Contacts. All phone numbers from your phone (FB friends or not) are published. Please repost this on your Status, so your friends can remove their numbers and thus prevent abuse if they do not want them published

“If a friend hasn’t included her number on her Facebook profile, it looks as though Facebook has just given you her number when in reality it came from your own phone,” the website, Mashable, says.

But, it points out, Facebook isn’t giving you anything you didn’t already have. The numbers came from your contacts list on your cellphone.

“Our Contacts list, formerly called Phonebook, has existed for a long time,” a Facebook statement says. “The phone numbers listed there were either added by your friends themselves and made visible to you, or you have previously synced your phone contacts with Facebook. Just like on your phone, only you can see these numbers.”

Nonetheless, Facebook’s matching of data is impressive, and scary. If it finds a number in your cellphone that matches a number someone has posted on Facebook, it will suggest you “friend” that person.

This 1999 project from MPR on privacy seems more quaint every day.

  • bsimon

    Its not just Facebook. When I setup my android phone, The Google synched my phone numbers (from old phone) with names in gmail, then with facebook when I downloaded that app. While sometimes amusing ( like combining my brother & father), its also a bit disturbing.

  • Karisa

    I agree with disturbing…. It is very disturbing. Data is a great currency for social networking sites and other sites/applications. The more data they have the more people they can seek out, the more facts and figures they can compile on how humans act and how they can sell us some more ideas or objects that we show interest in.

    Which would be fine if it were an ad agency or a marketing firm. To me, it feels like an invasion of privacy, because we give them so much info knowingly.

    Why are they rifling through our pockets as we sleep with the pretense that it benefits us?

  • Jim Shapiro

    Wikileaks founder Julian Assange calls facebook “the most appalling spying machine ever invented.”

  • http://connermccall.com Conner

    I never understand the uproar over these things.

    1. You sign up for a free service which is advertised as a way of keeping track of friends and family.

    2. You add your phone number to this site.

    3. A friend makes the decision to upload the phone numbers from their phone to the site.

    4. In an effort to make their service more valuable, the system matches these willingly shared pieces of data together and suggests you become friends.

    What did the free service do wrong?

    People should be upset that their friend is uploading their contact info before pointing the finger at the big bad social network.

    Not to say Facebook’s history of privacy is amazing, but for the most part people share way to much online and get upset when that information becomes public. Good rule of thumb, if it’s on a social network, it’s public.

  • BJ

    @Conner – agreed.

  • http://www.facebook.com/notes/iphone/hot-xmas-special-today-lg-micro-usb-data-cable-for-all-lg-micro-usb-phones-black/214366318646380?ref=nf facebook

    Facebook will only send the notifications to one email account. . . The only way to receive Facebook notifications on both accounts is to have one of your email accounts to automatically forward a copy of EACH and EVERY incoming mail to the other account. Just look in the FAQ section of one of your email accounts, and it’ll show you how to do that.