Facebook Denies Making Phone Numbers Public

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Syncing mobiles with Facebook does not reveal contact numbers in public, says the social networking giant

Facebook yesterday denied rumours that syncing mobile phones with the social network publicly reveals the phone’s contacts.

The story began circulating yesterday via status updates saying “all the phone numbers in your phone are now on Facebook!” and directing users to where the numbers were “published”. Facebook rubbished the story via its fan page and said the feature had been available for a long time.

It wrote: “Rumours claiming that your phone contacts are visible to everyone on Facebook are false. Our Contacts list, formerly called Phonebook, has existed for a long time.

“The phone numbers listed there were either added by your friends themselves and made visible to you, or you have previously synced your phone contacts with Facebook. Just like on your phone, only you can see these numbers.”

In sync but unsettled

The ‘Contacts’ feature is designed to display a user’s friends’ phone numbers in a single list instead of having to visit individual profiles for that information. It is accessed by clicking ‘Account’ in the top right hand corner and selecting ‘Edit Friends’. ‘Contacts’ appears on the left hand side.

Unless privacy filters state otherwise, anyone who has included their phone number in the info page of their Facebook profile will have their number appear in the ‘Contacts’ page of each of their friends. On syncing your mobile phone and Facebook, the contacts in your phone, whether Facebook friends or not, are uploaded to your own contact page.

There are instructions here on how to remove your’s and your friends’ phone numbers from your profile and ‘Contacts’ list.

It is not clear why this rumour has surfaced now. A Facebook spokeswoman told The Wall Street Journal that Facebook has used its fan page to address rumours less than a dozen times and only does so when one is trending or the company is inundated with emails.

Private matters

Facebook has a history of clashing with users and organisations over privacy and is increasingly perceived to have a relaxed attitude toward the matter.

Its facial recognition feature, which scans photos and suggests tags, was sneaked into play in June and immediately unsettled some people. A researcher at Black Hat also showed this week how off-the-shelf facial recognition software could link passers-by to Facebook profiles.

Facebook was left red faced in May after a clumsy attempt to smear Google on privacy allegations was exposed in the US.

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