One of today’s trending topics is a horrific Facebook assault on privacy, shocking people by revealing the social media leader was nefariously collecting information that users wished to shield. As HackerNews yelled, “Facebook has your complete phonebook.”
Fine, except that this news wasn’t hidden or nefarious. It wasn’t even news. As to whether it’s an assault on privacy, that’s up to the individual user’s choice of settings. Facebook is no angel when it comes to personal privacy (Beacon, anyone?), but this simply isn’t one of those cases.
What people are scared of is actually a feature that came with the Facebook mobile app, which offered users the option of syncing existing phone contacts with people included in their Facebook profiles. Allowing Facebook to scrape your phone book was not a requirement, it was something Facebook thought users would find convenient.
Finally, Facebook messenger engineer Ben Gertzfiled responded to the uproar on Facebook’s page to quell the growing rumors that user’s contacts were being made visible to everyone on Facebook by unequivocally stating they were false.
Furthermore, he wrote, “Our Contacts list, formerly called Phonebook, has existed for a long time.”
He’s not exaggerating. Nearly four years ago, Lifehacker and other blogs reported about a convenient new feature that let Facebook users download the phone numbers of every person in their Facebook friends list. If that sounds handy, click here. The mobile sync is just an extension of that feature.
“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,” said Gertzfiled.
In short, if you didn’t know that Facebook enables you to sync and download all of your phone numbers, now you do. Enjoy.
http://tinyurl.com/3tkq6ru (NY Times’ Gadgetwise blog)