Facebook users now have something new to complain about. It’s their phone number! As a measure of security, Facebook asks its users to authenticate their account with their phone numbers, which is later associated with their profile. This means anyone can use their phone number to look up their Facebook profile. That’s not the worst part. Facebook doesn’t give you an option to opt-out of this step, and that’s what users are upset about.
Why Is There no Opt Out Feature?
Perhaps the reason why Facebook doesn’t allow users to skip this step is because it’s profiting off of them. Facebook admitted last year that it was using users’ phone numbers to target them with ads. The two-factor authentication Facebook hassles its users to go through is yet another way to bombard them with targeted advertisements. Not only is it a marketing strategy by Facebook owners, but this option also enables internet users to look up a user profile based on the same phone number. This is an immediate violation of privacy and the reason why users are fed up with Facebook’s policies.
Zeynep Tufekci, security expert and academic tweeted saying: “Using security to further weaken privacy is a lousy move — especially since phone numbers can be hijacked to weaken security,” referring to SIM swapping. He also said that users can “no longer keep private the phone number that [they] provided only for security to Facebook.”
The commotion aroused after a tweet by Jeremy Burge surfaced, criticizing Facebook’s collection and use of phone numbers. According to Jeremy, “a phone number is a unique ID that is used to link your identity across every platform on the internet.” Check out the tweet below.
For years Facebook claimed the adding a phone number for 2FA was only for security. Now it can be searched and there’s no way to disable that. pic.twitter.com/zpYhuwADMS
— Jeremy Burge 🐥🧿 (@jeremyburge) March 1, 2019
Facebook’s No Opt-Out Option
Although Facebook users can hide their phone number on their profile so no one can see it, there’s no way to hide it completely. There are different ways in which one can “look up” user profiles. According to a Facebook help article, this is possible “when someone uploads your contact info to Facebook from their mobile phone.”
At least Facebook restricted users from looking up other people’s profiles using someone’s phone number. Many criticized Facebook’s decision to turn phone numbers into “lookups,” as “unconscionable”. When a user gives Facebook a phone number for the two-factor, it “becomes targetable by an advertiser within a couple of weeks.”
Violation of Privacy with Phone Numbers
If a user doesn’t like the two-factor authentication, he/she can set it up without using a phone number. This hasn’t been obligatory for additional login security since May 2018. However, there are cases of Facebook collecting users’ phone numbers whether the users allowed it or not.
In 2017, A Telegraph reporter expressed her frustration about Facebook finding and making use of her phone number. She said, “not given Facebook my number, was unaware that it had found it from other sources, and did not know it could be used to look me up.”
Facebook spokesperson Jay Nancarrow claimed that the settings “are not new,” and that “the setting applies to any phone numbers you added to your profile and isn’t specific to any feature.” Facebook responded to these concerns saying: “We appreciate the feedback we’ve received about these settings and will take it into account.”
Security experts suggest that privacy-conscious users switch their “look up” settings to “Friends”. This will help them avoid privacy-related issues. Facebook refused to comment on whether or not will allow users to users to opt-out of the setting. The company also explained that the reason behind having “everyone” by default is to make finding people you know easier.
Facebook’s Whatsapp also uses your phone number as the main way to create your account. Although Facebook has long had a strategy to integrate the two services, it ran into minor setbacks along the way. As long as you know how to make use of Whatsapp’s encryption, the dilemma of privacy and security is no longer a concern.
Facebook’s No Opt-Out Phone Number Look Up Option – Final Words