Facebook no longer lets you search for friends by phone numbers
Posted by Cat Ellis on 05 April 2018 09:10 AM
As part of its overhaul of user privacy, Facebook has announced a raft of changes to how it handles user data, including removing the ability to find other Facebook users by searching for their phone number.
This function made it easier for people to find one another in countries where many people share the same name (it makes up 7% of all searches in Bangladesh, for example), but in a blog post, Facebook explained that criminals have "abused these features to scrape public profile information by submitting phone numbers or email addresses they already have through search and account recovery".
Facebook has also taken steps to limit the data available to third-party apps. It's tightening the review process for apps that request your photos and posts, and apps are no longer allowed to request sensitive data including marital status, religious views, education and work history – the type of data that enabled organizations like Cambridge Analytica to deliver precisely targeted ads to voters in the 2016 US presidential election.
In the same blog post, Facebook admitted that its Messenger and Facebook Lite Android apps gather users' call and text history on an opt-in basis.
The site reiterated its earlier claim that it doesn't access the content of any messages, but said it was necessary to review the feature to make sure that was the case, and has cut down the amount of information it records.
"This [call logging] means we can surface the people you most frequently connect with at the top of your contact list." it explained. "In the future, the client will only upload to our servers the information needed to offer this feature – not broader data such as the time of calls."
These are all positive steps, but are small comfort following the revelation that Cambridge Analytica might have in fact harvested data from 87 million Facebook users, rather than the 50 million originally reported.