Facebook Decides to Rethink Phone Number/Address Sharing

    January 18, 2011
    Chris Crum

A few days ago, Facebook updated its developer blog with a post called, "Platform Updates: New User Object fields, Edge.remove Event and more," which explained that the company would start granting access to users’ mobile phone numbers and home addresses to third-party developers.  

Granted, users would have had to provide Facebook with this information in the first place, and they would have also had to grant permission to any app or website trying to access it via the familiar permission box:

Facebook Permission Request for User Info

Still, the move raised some concerns. People don’t always read those permission boxes that carefully, when they’re just trying to move on to whatever task they’re trying to complete, and with so much of the web being integrated with Facebook, there’s no telling who all might collect your phone number and address, without paying explicit attention. 

Facebook apparently decided that they agree with this. In a post to the company’s developer blog early this morning, Facebook’s Douglas Purdy wrote:

On Friday, we expanded the information you are able to share with external websites and applications to include your address and mobile number. With this change, you could, for example, easily share your address and mobile phone with a shopping site to streamline the checkout process, or sign up for up-to-the-minute alerts on special deals directly to your mobile phone.

As with the other information you share through our permissions process, you need to explicitly choose to share this data before any application or website can access it, and you can not share your friends’ address or mobile number with applications. Also, like other data you make available to third party apps and websites, you can always clearly see and control the ways your information is being used in the Application Dashboard.

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.

It remains unclear just what changes they’re making to the process, but acknowledgement is certainly a start. It probably also helps that they provided a bit of context for why you might actually want to grant your address and phone number to some sites or apps. 

How would you like to see Facebook go about implementing the feature? Share your thoughts.


Chris Crum
Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.