What Does Facebook Want with Your Phone Number?

Paul Lilly

There are obvious reasons you don't go scribbling your phone number on restroom walls or handing out your digits willy nilly. In theory, only the people you care to talk with should have your number. If that's the case, are you worred about Facebook harvesting your contact information? The social networking site has come under fire for collecting not just your phone number, but also numbers stored in your phone.

Fox News says there's a statement making the rounds on Facebook warning users of what's going on with their phone details and contacts list. The fear is that Facebook is gathering these numbers even if you've never given the site permission to do so. Don't believe it, says Facebook.

"Rumors claiming that your phone contacts are visible to everyone on Facebook are false. Our Contacts list, formerly called Phonebook, has existed for a long time," Facebook posted on its website. "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."

You can view what has some privacy advocates up in arms by clicking Account in the upper right corner, Edit Friends , and then Contacts in the left-hand pane. Facebook describes it as being "like a phonebook that only you can see," and at least one security researcher says it's to your benefit to sync information from your phone so you can easily find friends and connect with them. At the same time, there's some concern with Facebook having access to all that data.

"In some ways, Facebook is attempting to be very helpful," Don Debolt, director of threat research for Total Defense, told Fox News. "But how exactly they are using this information isn't exactly clear. We don't know how our data is being used, we don't know how our data is being monetized."

If nothing else, Debolt says this should serve as a "wake-up call" for parents of teenagers who use the service and own a mobile phone.

Around the web