You might have seen one of these headlines this week; Facebook really wants you to add your phone number to your Facebook account profile if you haven’t done so already. It’s for your own good. Really.
Does Facebook benefit from having your phone number? Yes
Any and all information that is has on its users – public or private – enhance the value of its data set to advertisers. Facebook’s business runs on the value of the ads that it serves.
Do you benefit from Facebook having your phone number? Maybe
Facebook states that if you give them your phone number, you will be able to turn on two-factor authentication, which is a good thing (1). In addition, and new this week, Facebook is promising to alert you if it has evidence that your account is being “targeted or compromised by a hacker suspected of working on behalf of a nation-state”. How’s that for shock value?
Is there evidence that Facebook might be running a little fast and loose with the phone numbers it already has? Yes
This is the problem as we see it.
As follows is a good example. Let’s say your phone number is already listed in your Facebook bio but is set to private, i.e. you tell Facebook not to show your number to anyone – even your Facebook friends. If someone happens to perform a Facebook search for your phone number, it pulls up your profile, whether the person doing the Facebook search is your friend or not, whether your Facebook account is set to private or public.
In this case, Facebook has told you that it won’t use your phone number (or implied it, or led you to believe it), but it is allowing others to find your account via your number, even if your account is private. How else are they using your phone number that you don’t know about? And your other data?
We’d love to hear someone from Facebook explain why private data – your phone number – is publicly linked to your account and searchable, but don’t have high expectations of that happening. As it stands we’d not be inclined to be giving them more personal information, and be looking for ways to give them less.
As always, if you disagree with something in this article, please let us know in the comments.
- With two-factor authentication enabled, any time your Facebook account is accessed from a new/different device or browser, Facebook will text you an authentication code so that it confirms that it is you doing the signing in.
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