Facebook to share user phone numbers, home addresses with third parties

By Sahil Kapur
Tuesday, March 1, 2011 11:19 EDT
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Facebook will move forward with a plan to allow third parties to access the personal data of users, the latest in a series of moves drawing controversy over the privacy of its massive consumer base.

The feature will permit applications to seek the private data of Facebook account holders, such as phone numbers and home addresses. The company appears to be acting within its rights, according to PC World magazine.

The social networking giant quietly enabled the feature in January, but suspended it a few days later after a backlash from users, intending to bring it back in an improved manner.

In a letter responding to concerns raised by Reps. Edward Markey (D-MA) and Joe Barton (R-TX), Facebook said two weeks ago that the feature would return in a way that seeks to emphasizes permission from users before third parties gain access to their personal information.

“We expect that, once the feature is re-enabled, Facebook will again permit users to authorize applications to obtain their contact information,” the organization wrote, adding that it was “evaluating methods to further enhance user control.”

As it has grown, Facebook has in recently years encouraged users to share data more openly. It has been criticized for gradually liberalizing its privacy settings in a way that less savvy users would not know to make adjustments in order to protect themselves from unwilling access to their information.

The new feature raises similar concerns about unintended consequences, as users can inadvertently provide scammers their personal data with a few arbitrary clicks, which may then be sold to marketers or used in identity theft frauds.

“I’m pleased that Facebook’s response indicated that it’s looking to enhance its process for highlighting for users when they are being asked for permission to share their contact information,” Markey said. “I look forward to monitoring the company’s work in this area.”

Yet it raises the question: for what legitimate purposes might an application desire the personal data of Facebook users?

Privacy experts told the Huffington Post that a gap between the expectations and reality of Facebook usage could leave some users in the dark about the consequences of certain applications and features.

“People never thought when they were posting this data [such as their phone numbers] that it would be accessible to anyone but friends. There’s a real mismatch of expectations around that,” Mary Hodder, chairman of the Personal Data Ecosystem Consortium, told the website. “Even if Facebook comes back with new protections, they’re still saying, ‘Hey, get over it, your data is public.’ I feel sad for users that Facebook’s approach is ‘You give us anything and it’s all fair game.’”

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  • Anonymous


    Your enemy was the EULA.

  • Anonymous

    Let them… Anyone who was stupid enough to put their real info on there deserve what they get. I think I used 202.456.1111 and 1600 pensylvania avenue washington DC. I look forward to spammers hitting that number and address. And they’re prolly stupid enough too.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1046573071 Matt Mosley

    Now THIS is a story. No Boba Fett Bullshit

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_EYVXVW2OZBHLFJR5D4AISU73WE Juan

    But at least Facebook is FREE!! Always will be!!

  • http://www.ameridane.org/ thingwarbler

    Hmmm. If I could even be bothered to play with the slimy crooks at Facebook, I would give them 772-257-4501 as my very personal phone number. Hope they’d share it far and wide…

  • Guest


  • FerBer

    It’s been going on and with the free will of the people giving away their information. Every time those stupid applications (give hearts, farmwille etc.) ask to “allow to access your basic information and post on your wall, you just gave yourself away for cheap and dumb entertainment to the corporations. No it’s not “cute”, neither “funny” and neither “nice” to send these garbage to each other. Also, take down your phone number, it’s so easy to download them illegally by anyone and save it into a database.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_U4CB4JMBKUBO6NL2RNREZDZUEA Freeky_Fried_Chicken

    No such thing as FREE when you’re required to give out personal info.

    Start giving minimal information to all of the data harvesters and question why certain folks need your phone number, etc.

    They don’t need a bunch of personal info to change your oil, etc.

  • K7KTR

    Data-Mining, Fusion Centers, IP Profiling by Google and NSA. When you hear Hillary Clinton speaking of the Freedom of the Internet, Look for the small print to scroll by at the bottom of the screen. (Offer not valid in the 50 States of America) While the Government praises the Democracy in other Middle East lands, Here at home it is a different story. Like the Scofflaw where you Order a Pizza and the Pizza place now gives your Real Name, Address, Phone Number to Law Enforcement. So instead of a Pizza at the Door you have a Cop to arrest you for old traffic fines or more. Telling the Baby-Sitter to just order a pizza is another way to have your life DATA-MINED!

  • Anonymous

    When will people get it through their heads that ANYTHING posted electronically can — and likely will — be sold, searched, hacked, and otherwise accessed?

  • Anonymous

    Facebook is fast becoming a criminal act, IMHO. The little creep that runs it should be drawn and quartered.

    But there’s hope.

    Read this:
    Four Nerds and a Cry to Arms Against Facebook

    This was their inspiration, and why you should care (the speaker wrote the first email program at age 16)

    Some follow-up

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_N6BJ56PKHQMYMIH3LYCOQC233I Sidd

    I’m so glad I haven’t joined Wastebook yet!

  • Anonymous

    I posted this on Facebook

    I’ll possibly get “canned” for this but Zuckerberg!! You own 24% of FB!! That’s a nice chunk of a company valued at $50B!!
    How much more money do you need asshole? I guess once the money virus hits you,you’ll stop at nothing to grab as much …as you can right? We call it greed! So how much more will you earn by selling off our personal info to advertisers? Don’t bullshit about your hands are tied because you only have a minority share. The 2 major shareholders after you, own 10% and one of them is DST
    DST as you already know Mr Z has strong ties to Goldman Sachs. GS also kicked in with DST’s purchase! So I guess you’re partnered with Goldman Sachs? You feel comfortable doing business with one of,if not the major orchestrator and perpetrator of our financial crisis?
    So it’s really not that you don’t have the majority,it’s a question of the company you keep! After all, you and your Harvard education must be familiar with the saying “You are what you eat and the company you keep”!
    I’m wondering! Who’s the biggest asshole: you or Goldman Sachs? I’d say you’re both pretty much neck and neck! You’re a disgrace and judging by the company you keep,I’m prone to now believe that you did steel FB from the twins! If you didn’t, why even bother cashing them out with what was it: twenty million? Man, so young ,yet already a well matured schmuck and scumbag! Too bad you were dignified with that movie!

  • NadePaulKuciGravMcKi

    Facebook is an NSA front.

  • http://twitter.com/sellitman sellitman

    I quit FB tonight over this article.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ES5ERDLPZPJKLNZXGGJPRJ6UYM Lance

    I’m sure glad i quit Facebook.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6VIII2XPU4HUPLANTLEJGSYN7A jARED

    Here’s a smirk for every moron in the world that typed their personal info into a social database and expected anonymity. Just like the voter’s in Wisconsin, people get what they vote for. Whether you vote by checking a dot, spending money, or just keeping your mouth shut, if you hand over control, you have no right to complain.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6VIII2XPU4HUPLANTLEJGSYN7A jARED

    You just admitted you went to see the Facebook movie. I think even Zuckerberg would find that sad.

  • Anonymous

    No, I haven’t seen the movie yet. I just know about it.
    That being said, I am curious, and will in the future probably see it.
    Not in the theater or rental, I have a friend who is a member of the Academy. So no money out of pocket!
    I know the money doesn’t go to him. But still. it’s the principle!