Facebook users have a new privacy concern after discovering that the social network apparently stores a list of phone numbers belonging to your Facebook friends and, apparently, to contacts stored in the mobile device that you use to access Facebook's mobile app. (Before you panic, this list is not publicly visible to your entire social network.)
According to The Washington Post, this Phonebook Contacts feature has been live for "a few years," though many users are just noting its existence.
Your personal list, created from contacts stored in your mobile device, is accessible on your Facebook profile. To view the list, go to the account tab in the upper-right-hand corner of your Facebook page, click "Edit Friends," and then select Contacts from the sidebar menu all the way on the left-hand side of the page.
Facebook Phonebook Contacts:
This list includes numbers from your cell phone that do not link to Facebook accounts. The appearance of these numbers suggests that Facebook is importing them from your mobile phonebook via the Facebook app.
PCWorld's Dan Tynan claims that he's not even friends with some of the Facebook users included in the list of numbers on his Facebook account. "There are also people whom I do not know, who are not in my Android phone’s contact list, with whom I share no connection whatsoever and have no friends in common, who are in my Facebook phone book," Tynan writes. (A Facebook spokesperson was not immediately available to comment.)
Facebook, posted a statement about the controversy on their page:
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. 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.
In reality, the feature could be a handy tool for keeping track of all your friends' phone numbers. But you can also turn it off. Facebook provides a link on the Contacts page that allows you to disable the Contacts Importer feature.
These new privacy concerns come just days after Facebook announced its new Messenger app for iPhone and Android. The app may prove more convenient than texting, as it allows you to message Facebook friends and non-Facebook friends via a single platform.
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