Facebook embroiled in yet another privacy scandal, this time involving your phone number

in General Discussion edited March 4
Facebook has come under fire yet again for another privacy issue, with the social network not providing its users with any way to opt out of having their phone number, submitted to enable two-factor authentication to secure the account, used by others to look up their profile.

Facebook encourages its users to set up two-factor authentication on their account, usually by asking them to submit their phone number, a process that is relatively common across various account systems online. In Facebook's case, the number gets associated with the account, but users are still able to hide it from view on their profile, preventing anyone from being able to see it.

However, it was recently discovered on Twitter that it is possible for users to be searched for on the social network by the number submitted for the additional authentication, even if it is hidden from view on the profile page. Facebook's support pages notes users can "look up" profiles in various ways, like when they upload their contact information to Facebook from heir mobile device.

For years Facebook claimed the adding a phone number for 2FA was only for security. Now it can be searched and there's no way to disable that. pic.twitter.com/zpYhuwADMS

-- Jeremy Burge (@jeremyburge)

Crucially, TechCrunch reports that, though there are options to limit who can look up a user by phone number, there is no option to disable it completely. Usually set to "Everyone" by default, there are options to only be discovered by phone number by "friends of friends" and by "friends," but nothing further to stop it from being used at all.

Facebook spokesperson Jay Nancarrow advised to the report the settings "are not new," and that the setting "applies to any phone numbers you added to your profile and isn't specific to any feature."

While the phone number may have been submitted just for two-factor authentication use, it was reported in 2018 that it "became targetable by an advertiser within a couple of weeks," giving Facebook another way to track users and feed advertising.

The issues relating to phone numbers could get worse, as Facebook has already signalled an intention to merge WhatsApp with Instagram's messaging tools and Messenger. As WhatsApp heavily uses phone numbers, the chance that the user's phone number will be taken advantage of by the social network is quite high.

This is far from the only privacy issue that Facebook has been forced to handle, with many issues coming to light since the discovery of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Facebook and the US FTC are in negotiations to determine a fine over the privacy violations, which could be in excess of a billion dollars.

Facebook has also pledged to shutter a VPN app used to collect data on its users, saw disruption to its internal apps after Apple pulled a certificatedue to Facebook's flouting of its enterprise app rules, and some apps have been found to share sensitive data with the company, including financial and medical data.


  • Reply 1 of 19
    VicWVicW Posts: 11member
    Where FB sees a "feature", users experience privacy violations.
  • Reply 2 of 19
    olsols Posts: 42member
    @apple: please remove Facebook from the app store...
  • Reply 3 of 19
    seanismorrisseanismorris Posts: 1,045member
    The solution is obvious, don’t use Facebook.  Stop the spread of the disease...
  • Reply 4 of 19
    wd4fsuwd4fsu Posts: 12member
    At least now know where phone spammers are getting their list of phone numbers from. :-o Facebook is becoming really nefarious.
  • Reply 5 of 19
    airnerdairnerd Posts: 664member
    Glad I have never given Facebook my phone number for two factor authentication.  But the app was on my phone for a bit so I'm sure they have my number that way.  
  • Reply 6 of 19
    monstrositymonstrosity Posts: 2,209member
    Closed my FB account last week after they started deleting another round of political opponents. 
  • Reply 7 of 19
    mike54mike54 Posts: 347member
    Young people have no idea of how foolish it is to use Facebook and their other products Whatsapp, Instagram and Messenger.
    What will be influenced due the comprehensiveness of data collection are jobs, running for public office, insurance, loans, medical care and insurance, membership of institutions, security clearances, etc.  But the person will never know why they were denied or have to pay a higher price. You don't need to have something to hide for you to be affected.
    edited March 4 rotateleftbytechiaAppleExposedbaconstangwatto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 19
    croprcropr Posts: 955member
    I need to use Facebook for professional reasons, however I have a very strict way of using it.  I don't use any Facebook app, I access Facebook only via the browser on my laptops.  To visit Facebook I am using the Facebook container plugin of Firefox (a really great invention), which isolates all Facebook related traffic from the rest of my browsing traffic, making tracking impossible.
  • Reply 9 of 19
    A few years ago I created an Instagram account (mostly to 'reserve' my name). I keep records of passwords, etc. About six months ago, went to log in again and Instagram would not let me log in unless I supplied a mobile phone number 'for security purposes'.  Riiiiight. That's not going to happen. 
  • Reply 10 of 19
    Johan42Johan42 Posts: 163member
    Paranoia runs deep in this forum.
  • Reply 11 of 19
    AppleExposedAppleExposed Posts: 1,404unconfirmed, member
    ols said:
    @apple: please remove Facebook from the app store...

    I'll say it again:

    Now is the perfect time for Apple to release an alternative. Apple already has iMessage and Facetime.

    iMessage is also better than Messenger/WhatsApp. Just charge iKnockoff users .99 a month to activate iMessages/Facetime.
  • Reply 12 of 19
    wonkothesanewonkothesane Posts: 1,383member
    I think the tactic is obvious: just create more security leaks than people can keep track off, and eventually all will be .... snafu. 
  • Reply 13 of 19
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 1,574member
    Johan42 said:
    Paranoia runs deep in this forum.
    Unfortunately, when it comes to facebook that paranoia is justified.
  • Reply 14 of 19
    Johan42 said:
    Paranoia runs deep in this forum.
    You should read 'Zucked' 

    There's an early exchange with Zuckerberg and a friend says, "these people just give you access to their personal data?"

    Zuck answers, "Yeah. Dumbf***s."

    FaceBook and Google are the cigarette companies of the '80s and 90's. 


  • Reply 15 of 19
    wonkothesanewonkothesane Posts: 1,383member
    Johan42 said:
    Paranoia runs deep in this forum.
    If it comes to FB, not deep enough. 
  • Reply 16 of 19
    blah64blah64 Posts: 933member
    The solution is obvious, don’t use Facebook.  Stop the spread of the disease...
    This is not true. 

    Even if you don't use fb, some portion of your friends do, and they probably have you in their contacts list which they share with fb.  For many people that means not just your phone number(s) but your birthday, your address, nickname, your email address(s); depending on your relationship with each person, perhaps your work email address, employer, job title and whatever other notes they have about you.

    As soon as fb has that data, which is really, really hard to prevent leakage of, they are able to tie it together with other stuff that's tied to your phone number.  For example, do you use a grocery store tracking ("loyalty") card?  Grocery stores sell that data to brokers, who in turn share and sell to many companies and other data brokers, including fb.  Now they can track your shopping schedule and everything you eat.  Ever order pizza?  That's a favorite, because now they have your phone number and home address, so that gets tied together and sold upstream as well.

    Not using fb is a good start, but the problem runs much deeper (and wider) than that.
  • Reply 17 of 19
    saranmysaranmy Posts: 3member
    Stop the spread of the disease...

  • Reply 17 of 19
    saranmysaranmy Posts: 3member
    That's not going to happen. 
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