Facebook U-Turns on Phone and Address Sharing

Let’s be honest, when it comes to personal data privacy, Facebook simply doesn’t get it!  The latest scandal to hit the social networking giant was the story a couple of days ago that it planned to allow external websites to view its users mobile phone numbers and home addresses.

Now the company has quickly u-turned on this decision after a public and press outcry.  They have put a “temporary hold” on any plans for further data sharing.

In a report by the BBC, a Facebook spokesperson said “Over the weekend, we got some useful feedback that we could make people more clearly aware of when they are granting access to this data. We agree, and are making changes to help ensure you only share this information when you intend to do so.”

This is only the very latest in a long line of privacy scandals to hit the company, and questions will very soon be asked by its user-base if it’s too risky to have any personal data on Facebook at all!?

Facebook founder Mark Zuckberg has previously made no secret of his desire to open up the relationship between the site’s 500 million users and the wider web.  “Having access to mobile phone numbers and physical addresses could have real benefits for users”, the firm said in its blog.  “You could, for example, easily share your address and mobile phone with a shopping site to streamline the checkout process, or sign up for the up-to-the-minute alerts on special deals directly to your mobile phone.”

It’s not just making personal data available to third parties that’s unwelcome however.  Graham Cluley, a senior Analyst at security company Sophos has speculated it could be very easy for rogue app developers to jump on the bandwagon.  He told the BBC “You can imagine, for instance, that bad guys could set up a rogue app that collects mobile phone numbers and then uses that information for the purposes of SMS spamming or sells on the data to cold-calling companies.”

Suffice to say that every time we think Facebook has finally learnt its lesson on privacy it goes and proves to us once again that it hasn’t.  The debate on whether or not we should all still be on Facebook will no doubt start in earnest, and quite soon.


188 Responses to Facebook U-Turns on Phone and Address Sharing

  1. Jon May 19, 2011 at 11:24 pm #

     I remember this, a friend sent an alert to everyone – suddenly I could see all my friends telephone numbers, regardless of whether they wanted me to call then or not! I very wise U-turn, although pretty foolish to do it in the first place.

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