Facebook suspends phone number and address sharing

New feature turned off after just days due to security worries

18 Jan 2011
Facebook disables phone number and address sharing

Facebook has disabled a contact sharing feature it only introduced a few days ago due to concerns over security and a loss of privacy.

The new feature, enabled on Friday 14th January 2011, was designed to allow people to share their phone number and address with applications you install. Facebook had hoped that this feature would let people quickly share information with other sites to make certain processes, such as checking out at an online shop, easier.

Although Facebook's ideas were noble, anti-virus company Sophos raised concerns that rogue apps would be written to steal people's data.

"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," said Graham Cluely on the Sophos Blog.

It's important to note that for each app, you have to manually enable sharing of contact details, rather than all of your details being available for an application to harvest. The likely scenario, then, is that rogue app developers would try and trick users into installing their applications and revealing their details.

In response to this and other feedback, Facebook has decided to disable the feature for now.

"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," said Douglas Purdy on the Facebook Developer blog. "We agree, and we are making changes to help ensure you only share this information when you intend to do so. We’ll be working to launch these updates as soon as possible, and will be temporarily disabling this feature until those changes are ready. We look forward to re-enabling this improved feature in the next few weeks."

For Sophos the changes will not be enough and the company has asked why Facebook doesn't make this feature available to developers it has approved only. We say, don't share your contact details on Facebook at all.

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