Having been criticised over the years for how it handles the privacy of account holders, Facebook has been involved in a new privacy row. This is as a result of a new policy to allow app developers access to telephone numbers and addresses of its users. The announcement which was made on Facebook’s official blog is said to be as a result of the Website’s aim to connect users with developers as well as friends. However, the plan has raised a lot of eyebrows particularly among many Internet security and privacy analysts who have gone a step further by advising Facebook users to delete all their phone numbers and addresses from the popular social-networking site, with immediate effect.
Although when the new policy is in place, users will still have to give individual applications the permission to access their data, the main cause of concern is that not everyone will notice this change in policy before approving an application thereby resulting in the transfer of personal details without a user’s knowledge. This will potentially result in exposure of a user’s contact details to spammers especially as Facebook does not use a systematic program of vetting potential applications. Thus, anyone could be behind some of the many thousands of independent third-party apps available on the Website.
Furthermore, experts warn that making addresses and phone numbers accessible will create more opportunities for identity theft, combined with the other data that are already openly available on Facebook. This could lead to a sudden rise in the number of rogue app developers seeking to take advantage of the system and exploit unsuspecting users. Already, Facebook advertisers can target users based on their interests, location, and other insights.
UPDATE: Meanwhile, Facebook has responded to the criticism by placing the new feature on “temporary hold” in search of a more robust way to make sure users know what information they are handing over.
Should Facebook continue with its plans to allow developers access to personal details of its users?