Facebook Slammed For Listing Users' Phone Numbers

As critics set their sights on a familiar target, Facebook is defending its use of consumers’ personal phone numbers.

At issue is the fact that Facebook won’t let users opt out of a feature that makes their phone numbers searchable to others, including advertisers and app developers.

Over the weekend, Jeremy Burge, Chief Emoji Officer at emoji-reference site Emojipedia, drew attention to the feature when he posted a screenshot of the setting.

“For years, Facebook claimed that adding a phone number for 2FA was only for security,” Burge tweeted. “Now it can be searched and there’s no way to disable that.”

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In response, Facebook said the feature isn’t a new one, and that it has taken steps to protect users’ privacy.  

“In April 2018, we removed the ability to enter another person’s phone number or email address into the Facebook search bar to help find someone's profile,” a company spokesperson stated.

More troubling to critics like Burge is Facebook’s penchant for sharing consumer data between its properties, including Instagram, WhatsApp and its flagship platform.  

At the beginning of the year, The New York Timesreported that Facebook planning to further integrate the services.

While the implications of the would-be move remain speculative, it is possible that by connecting its properties, Facebook could sell brands new cross-platform advertising opportunities.  

Facebook’s extensive tracking practices have already caught the eye of lawmakers.

Last year, the tech titan told Congress it collects information “from and about the computers, phones, connected TVs and other web-connected devices our users use that integrate with our products, and we combine this information across a user’s different devices.”

As Facebook sees it, all this tracking is necessary to offer consumers the personalized -- and free -- experiences they have come to expect.

“Our core service involves personalizing all content, features and recommendations that people see on Facebook services,” the company told Congress, last year. “No two people have the same experience on Facebook or Instagram, and they come to our services because they expect everything they see to be relevant to them.”
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