Facebook to Allow Sharing Your Address and Telephone Number with Third Parties

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As if it isn’t bad enough that Facebook is sharing your private phone number with all of your Facebook friends, there has been quite a stir this week over the news that Facebook is moving forward with their plans to allow third parties to access your contact information, including your address and telephone number. While Facebook denies this in the press, Facebook themselves confirmed it in a formal letter to the U.S. legislature, signed by Facebook’s VP of Global Public Policy, Marne Levine.

The whoe thing started when Facebook posted on their blog, on Friday, January 14th, that “We are now making a user’s address and mobile phone number accessible as part of the User Graph object. Because this is sensitive information, we have created the new user_address and user_mobile_phone permissions. These permissions must be explicitly granted to your application by the user via our standard permissions dialogs.” {Emphasis ours.}

Then, following a firestorm of howls of outrage, Facebook posted on the following Monday that “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. 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.{Again, emphasis ours.}

The storm has been re-awakened following a confirmation from Facebook, to no less an august audience then the U.S. House of Representatives, that they do plan to enable this “feature”.

This week, Huffington Post wrote a story about it, which Facebook immediately denied, stating, in response to the HuffPo article that:

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“Despite some rumors, there’s no way for other websites to access a user’s address or phone number from Facebook.”

However, in that same statement, Facebook immediately says that:

“For people that may find this option useful in the future, we’re considering ways to let them share this information (for example to use an online shopping site without always having to re-type their address).”

So Facebook is clearly intending to re-enable the “feature” of allowing the sharing of your personal contact information (including address and telephone number) with third parties.

In fact, here is what they said in their letter to U.S. Representatives Markey and Barton, just last week, in response to questions raised by the legislators. In the letter, Facebook states clearly that:


“We expect that, once the feature is re-enabled, Facebook will again permit users to authorize applications to obtain their contact information.”

Now the questions become not if, but when, and, like so many other privacy invading policies of Facebook, will this be enabled by default, and you will have to know to go turn it off? We hope (and actually expect) not, however, even then, let’s face it: the average user doesn’t really understand to what they are agreeing when hitting “allow” on data sharing requests on Facebook.

Time to change your contact information in Facebook! We like the address 1601 S. California Ave., Palo Alto, CA 94304 and the phone number (650) 543-4800.

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