Facebook: We Aren’t Stealing Your Phone Numbers And Posting Them So Everyone Can See

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Facebook has responded to a privacy scare meme likely deriving from a recent HackerNews thread called “Facebook has your complete phonebook”  both with an official post on Facebook’s Wall and a personal message from a Facebook Messenger engineer Ben Gertzfield on HackerNews.

In its efforts to dominate all modes of human communication (yay Messenger!), Facebook has chosen to match up and de-dupe numbers both on your Facebook Friends List and your mobile Contacts to form one Contacts coherent list, that only you can see. For those of you that didn’t realize that Facebook now has the contact information of sundry aunts, bosses, dry cleaners, etc this may come as a shock.

Facebook’s official response:

“Rumors claiming that your phone contacts are visible to everyone on Facebook are false. Our Contacts list, formerly called Phonebook, has existed for a long time. 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.”

Fair enough. So why the uproar? Well it is pretty eye-opening to see friends’ numbers you didn’t even think you had (wow, I should really call that random person and catch up) just by clicking on this link. How did Facebook get those numbers in the first place? With your permission of course!

As HackerNews user ‘extension’ points out, enabling contact synching on the Facebook mobile apps will result in something similar to the following message:

“If you enable this feature, all contacts from your device (name, email address, phone number) will be sent to Facebook and be subject to Facebook’s Privacy Policy, and your friends’ profile photos and other info from Facebook will be added to your iPhone address book. Please make sure your friends are comfortable with any use you make of their information. [Cancel] [I Agree]“

So by agreeing a) you basically chose to upload information you’ve inputted into your phone to Facebook and b) people have chosen to give you the numbers. But yeah, it’s your fault buddy —  people will [Agree] to just about anything these days to avoid the monotony of reading something that remotely sounds like a TOS, even if it’s only two sentences.

Still not assured? You can remove the phone numbers you’ve imported to Facebook Contacts by clicking on this link https://www.facebook.com/c​ontact_importer/remove_upl​oads.php?r=%2Fphonebook.

Facebook still owns your immortal soul though.

Image: joeshlabotnik