Following closely on the heels of the Onavo fiasco, Facebook is yet again in the news for all the wrong reasons. In the latest turn of events, it has been alleged that Facebook is allowing everyone to look up users with a phone number, according to a report by TechCrunch.
As per the report, users are now complaining that the phone number that Facebook hassled them to use for two-factor authentication is now being used to ‘look up’ their profiles and the worst part of this whole affair is that there’s no option to ‘opt out’.
Last year, in a dramatic turn of events, Facebook was forced to admit that after months of effort to convince its users to sign up for the two-factor authentication using their phone numbers, it was using the phone numbers to target users with ads.
But the fact remains that some users have found out just now that Facebook’s default setting allows everyone, with or without an account to look up a user profile based off the phone number previously added to the account.
The recent controversy started after a tweet from Jeremy Burge in which he openly criticized Facebook’s alleged use of phone numbers which he compared “a unique ID that is used to link your identity across every platform on the internet.”
Now it seems, the phone numbers will be used to help others find you on the network and Facebook is not going to do anything to stop that.
While users can hide their phone numbers, there is still the possibility to “look up” user profiles in other ways.
As we all know that Facebook gives users the options to ‘look up’ profile using their phone numbers to “everyone by default” or “friends of friends” or just “friends”. But there is still no way to hide it completely.
Speaking about this latest move, Security expert and academic Zeynep Tufekci said:
“Using security to further weaken privacy is a lousy move, especially since phone numbers can be hijacked to weaken security.”
See thread! Using security to further weaken privacy is a lousy move—especially since phone numbers can be hijacked to weaken security. Putting people at risk. What say you @facebook? https://t.co/9qKtTodkRD
— zeynep tufekci (@zeynep) March 2, 2019
He further notes that users can no longer keep their phone numbers secret which they provided only for security reasons.
It is worthwhile to note here that even if users have not given their phone numbers for two-factor authentication, there are many cases that highlight that Facebook collected phone numbers whether the user permitted it or not.
To the specific concerns raised by users, Facebook responded by saying, “We appreciate the feedback we’ve received about these settings and will take it into account.”