Facebook is facing another data-privacy backlash; this time over their handling of users' phone numbers, The Guardian reported.
Facebook began accessing users' phone numbers in 2011 as a means to enable two-factor authentication, posing as a security measure. But it has since been revealed that users cannot override a privacy setting which allows others on Facebook and Instagram to find their profiles using their number. This follows a report in September by Gizmodo, which found that Facebook uses individuals' phone numbers to place targeted ads.
Jeremy Burge sparked the current wave of criticism, after being required to share his phone number as the moderator of a large fan page on Facebook.
“I’m usually one to give benefit of the doubt,” Burge said, “but it’s so clear Facebook sees phone number as the way to unify its data sets (FB: email, Insta: username, WhatsApp: phone #) and this sort of thing only gives them less credibility when it comes to ever providing a number.”
Facebook responded to the comments in a statement, saying they had added the option last year to allow users to set up 2FA without registering a phone number. In addition, they said, they had made it more difficult to search for users based on their contact details, only appearing when they upload their phone book contacts using the mobile Facebook app.