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back to article Hey dumbo, Facebook isn't sharing telephone numbers

Facebook has been forced to stamp out a silly rumour doing the rounds on, well, Facebook, that wrongly suggests the company will share any user's telephone list with their contacts on the social network. Wrong, wrong, wrong, said the Mark Zuckerberg-run firm. "Rumors claiming that your phone contacts are visible to everyone on …

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I didn't give them permission

I think the reason everyone (including myself) is up in arms, and even considering leaving the site is that Facebook has taken my personal property and uploaded it to their servers without my express permission. They have no need to access or store this information and simply by hosting it are exposing it to additional risk (Sony PSN anyone). They need to take user privacy seriously or users will simply vote with their feet.

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What data do you think they have taken and uploaded?

If your phone number is on there, you gave it to them. They didn't steal it.

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WTF?

eh?

er how did they get your phone number unless YOU typed it in? and how did they access your mobile phone unless YOU synced it with facebook?

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Yeah, it must be your fault

It's not like Facebook would ever make certain settings related to privacy difficult to find and not very clear or anything like that.

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syllabub is correct

Think of it this way. If a friend of mine has my phone number and "syncs" his contacts with his phone, FB now has my phone number without my permission. Although they're not sharing it with anyone except the person who put it there, why on earth do you think that will remain the same?

Bottom line, a "friend" has technically (but probably unwittingly) given my phone details to FB, without my knowledge or consent, and FB have stored it.

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re: syllabub is correct

But it doesn't do that. At least in the case of my android phone, if you "sync" your phone with facebook, it is not sending any data to facebook. It merely takes the data from facebook (which the users have already knowingly and willingly supplied) and puts it into the phone book on your phone. It is not harvesting numbers from your phone for facebook's data swamp.

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re: syllabub is correct

Following on from my previous post, it seems I'm not using the "sync" provided by the facebook application, rather HTC sense, so my previous comment may be void!

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Your not reading the article properly

are you looking at it correctly..???? It takes ALL contacts off YOUR phone, and uploads them to facebook. without asking permission.

This is taken from using it on my android

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The Guvmint dunnit

Simple innit or it wuz that geezer Nixon

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Not so...

@Wize

Reread the article. Your friends can upload your phone number to Facebook as well simply by syncing their phone. Unfortunately, Facebook isn't just about what you put up there. If you have idiot friends who upload your information and don't work through the maze of privacy settings to protect it, your info is out there.

And before you say it, yes, the only winning move is not to play.

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More than that...

By synching to them and "giving" fb our info, they have more associative or corroborative and increasingly persistent "tendrils' into our relationships with other that fb never new to exist. Now, that is like "separate metadata" to which they were NOT privvy.

Anyone like me to takes PAINS to not synch my phone has already been incensed by Google when we first activated our fiRST Android phones, finding out or being deceived into thinking we HAD to synch all our contacts, no choice about it.

Now, fb comes along and acts like dicktards and implements the feature that we heard or are beign led to believe synchs ALL our Android contacts to FB. IF this is true, IF they are heisting from our phones infomation they conspired to heist, then they and any tributary partners in the loop --including government -- needs their ass-bones rib-caged cranked wide open for that perfidy. Even if we are not storing criminal activity on our phones, there is NO authority in the right to grant fb a green light to reach into our phones and land-grab our contacts.

That being said, what I think this also is about is fb trying to pull a Hail-Mary on Google: "Steal Google's clients' contacts' information for GOOGLE deigning to compete in OUR turf".

The ONLY advantage to the listing of our phone numbers in a profile is to aid in finding a number of a friend based on some memorized portion of the phone number and to spare us of clicking into and backing out of every one until the sought-after number is found. Even still, fb should have CLEARLY alerted that this wuold be coming. Not on their corporate page, but in a banner across our profile. It should be a stream that is hard to turn off so that every time they try to be a wise-ass, we users are by law or arbitration tipped off that fb is "up to something"...

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FAIL

Hang on a minute

I NEVER explicitly gave facebook my phone number. All I did was access facebook from my mobile and uploaded a photo or two from my phone. I used the standard web version of facebook via Opera Mini. I never gave them permission to store the number of that phone and they NEVER warned me that my number might be stored or used. What if I had logged in on my wife's phone instead?

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Too easy

Facebook has yet again made it too easy for phones to sync contact info to the site. All info sharing should be off by default and then it should be made difficult to enable. Once enabled it should warn before the first few syncs. And removing sync and info should be made superb easy.

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djs

Re: Too easy

You are absolutely correct. However, that flies in the face of facebook's business model, which is to harvest as much information about EVERYONE as they possibly can, so that they can turn it into targeted advertising revenue.

It is not in their interests to do the right thing, so they won't do the right thing. This is true for all businesses, whether it's google, facebook or Tesco (you don't really thing clubcards and nectar cards are about getting you a better deal on your shopping, do you? The POS terminal is a dataharvesting device and loyalty cards are the GUID that helps stores to tie transactions together)

Congratulations, 1984 arrived a very long time ago.

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Why is this so hard to understand?

It's not that Facebook is sharing your phone number with the world, but it IS sharing it will all your "friends". Now, unless you're that rare person who is only Facebook "friends" with people you actually know, Facebook has given your phone number to a bunch of perfect strangers.

I looked at my contact list and I have dozens of private numbers for people I don't know. I used to write for a music blog, and a zillion people friended me back then. I'm pretty sure they didn't intend to send me their private cell phone numbers. Some are even relatively well known people whose numbers are almost certainly not public knowledge.

Did those people "agree" to this when they clicked "ya whatever"? Sure. Did they know what they were doing? I doubt it. So I'm not sure if that's Facebook's problem or not, but I do know that it's a bad thing if every 14 year old girl's cell phone number is available to all 3000 people she plays Farmville with.

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um - that would be me then.. guess i am wierd

I am only friends on facebook with people i actually know. I have met them all (prior to adding them on facebook). This may mean i have about 35 friends, not 100s most people have.

I don't let any site 'sync' from outside (for instance when sites offer to read your email list etc [linkedin]).

I only put stuff on facebook that i do not care if the world sees and i never mention work.

Following these basic principles I usually am able to shrug when the next "facebook is killing your gran with it's *evil* data practices" story.

Some personal responsibility would not go amiss, watch the south park episode about the human centipad and failure to read update t&c's from apple. Funny but there is a lesson there.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HUMANCENTiPAD

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Pint

Agreed

There are actually quite a lot of us out there that have rules about who is our facebook friend. Mine is "I have in the past and would again in future like to have a pint with this person"

Similarly to the above - anything that gets onto facebook in the first place is so inconsequential that I genuinely wouldn't care if my parents or my workplace saw it. Both groups already know I enjoy spending time talking arse down the local, and frankly if anyone has the patience to scan through more than a couple of weeks worth of inane banality then they're welcome to whatever they think they can infer from it.

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Anonymous Coward

Question:

in the previous article: "Facebook wants to hook into mobile phone users who don't necessarily have a profile set up on the dominant social network."

Is it true that FB are providing "useful tools" that encourage the upload of non-FB-user's mobile numbers to FB? Do these mobile numbers then act as psuedo-id's that enable FB to infer or process data that relates to the non-FB user?

This is separate to how visible they are once they get there.

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Fill your boots, Facebook

If you supplied your phone number, or any other personal details about you and your friends, you shouldn't be at all surprises that it is on Facebook

BUT.....

A lot of people didn't know this list existed until now.

The settings are quite well hidden unless you are specifically looking for it.

In my case the settings on my phone are switched off, to NOT sync yet the numbers still got harvested.

The numbers are not just my own or the numbers of friends on Facebook that have already supplied - there are numbers from contacts in my phone that are not even on Facebook and have no business being on there.

By all means allow information to be copied across ... But tell your users you are doing it first. Better still, ask for their permission

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FAIL

Exactly why I removed the app....

I had the Sync option disabled but still had random connections and e-mail only contacts from my phone on the Contact list.

The mobile site is just as usable and you get to browse it over HTTPS too. Try it.

https://m.facebook.com/

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Facebook apps take too many liberties

I recently refused to upgrade the Facebook Android app because it requires permissions to automatically send text messages. That will cost me money. I tried to completely uninstall the Facebook app, but couldn't, as Motorola have fixed it there.

However, earlier versions have already taken the contact data on the phone (particularly the phone numbers) and uploaded it to Facebook. It doesn't matter whether they officially share this data with advertisers or others - all it takes in one Facebook employee to be in the pay of News International or the UVF to make this a danger.

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Big Brother

Yup

And not only send texts, but read and edit them too. No doubt to harvest more info. Can't believe there's been zero coverage about the SMS permissions they snuck in for version 1.6+.

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Facepalm

Surprised

I must admit, I was surprised. Before the 'contact sync' functionality being implemented in the Facebook App I had previously used a third-party program that performed a contact sync; it beefed-up my iPhone's contacts' with information from Facebook. This is what I ASSUMED (yes, which ultimately makes it my own stupid fault) would happen when I hit 'Sync' in Facebook - NOT that it would send all the info from my phone up into the clouds...

Not overly bothered as I'm aware I'm not all that interesting, but better/clearer UI decisions could have been made...

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Exactly

The problem is that Facebook doesn't explain it properly. If I was told of these functions, I would simply not use them. By them including it but deliberately not explaining everything it's done, it's obvious that Facebook simply want your info but don't want to include a specific function that uploads your data to them as no one in their right mind would use it.

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Anonymous Coward

what's interesting

is that my list of contacts shows people I'm not actually connected to and don't know - it also shows all of their numbers including home numbers.

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WTF?

Don't put your number on your profile then

"I looked at my contact list and I have dozens of private numbers for people I don't know" that's because those people put their number on their profile, this is not the sync issue they are talking about.

I have the option to put my number's on my profile or not, and what I do have is shared with friends only minus a couple of groups I have made that I don't want to see those details.

Separately the facebook app on my iphone has sync'd my phone book with my contact, for people I already had the number for and for people that on their profile have added their phone number.

Also if your worried about your number getting out to other storage places, sorry but you don't think people that take your number don't stick onto the cloud somewhere? All my contacts are on google already, address, number's, dob, IM, twitter, job title, place of work.... welcome to the 21st century.....

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Yes but...

... the REAL problem is that Facebook doesn't give you a choice half the time. There are two places where it will take your contact details and they are well hidden (the Sync settings in the iPhone app and the "Find Friends" function in both iPhone and Android app). The latter doesn't tell you it's going to do it.

If we were given a choice then it'd be OK. Google gives you a choice - you can upload it directly or not. Facebook seems to trojan-horse it by giving you a feature that on-the-sly uploads your contact details without warning (in order to complete that function).

This latest one is because Facebook failed to adequately inform people that certain functions require the contact list to be uploaded. In fact, I know of some people who swear they haven't either used the Sync function or the "Find Friends" function but have still found their details on the site. Even with me, I checked yesterday and found stuff on there. Seeing as I know for a fact that I switched off the Sync function in the iPhone app (and only checked this a couple of weeks ago), it must have been on my Android phone (especially as the contact list had changes that I only made in the last week and was done only on my Android phone). I can only theorise that it might have been when I tried the "Find Friends" feature a few days ago - I say "theorise" because it definitely didn't warn me and it's either that or a bug.

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wag
Megaphone

Spot on

If you give someone your phone number, they will probably store it somewhere. In the olden days that used to be in a paper address book. A decade or two ago it might have been an electronic address book on a desktop computer, perhaps as part of email software. Think Outlook. Nowadays, people use more than one "device" (home computer, work computer, phone, perhaps they have both a desktop and tablet PC at home, etc.) and want to access their information (including your phone number) from all of them, and so store that information in the cloud. I don't understand why that comes as such a shock to people who are, presumably (since they read El Reg), reasonably tech savvy.

Equally Facebook does not pull your phone data without your permission. Nobody will get to see your phone number on Facebook except for those people you've already shared it with. If you put your phone number on Facebook and share it with your friends, then it's no surprise that it appears in their Facebook contacts list (which has been a feature of the site for many years now) - and not only is it no surprise, it's no big deal. You put your phone number on Facebook, you make it available to all your friends, you make someone your Facebook friend, they can see your phone number. That is not new, shocking or surprising in any way.

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That's not the issue

The issue is that the app is taking your contacts without asking you.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Facebook does not pull your phone data without your permission

The "your phone data" under discussion is other people's phone numbers, which are more their data, and part of their id than they are of yours. In what sense have you got the right to hand that over to FB?

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Megaphone

rule of thumb

Do NOT put private info on any social website. Or any website, for that matter.

- no cell phone. never. avoids stalkers, unnecessary acquaintances, or obnoxiously chirpy telemarketers reaching you at 9:15 -esp. when you went to bed at 4am-.

- no birthday. your real friends and family should already know what day it is. do not make id thieves' job _that_ easy.

..or just put in a fake one. it might br useful to receive special offers just before mother's day, for instance.

- no family info. nobody needs to know your family tree.

this is just for starters, for the non-paranoid regular people. If you are paranoid (or an illegal activist), what are you doing on Facebook with your real name anyway?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What are you doing on Facebook with your real name anyway?

I'm not. But it sounds a bit like a data-ghost of me, bootstrapped from my mobile number being in various FB user's contacts, might be.

If I thought that sort of thing was a good idea, I'd probably be on FB already anyway. But I don't, so I'm not ... not in any sense under my control, anyway.

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Facebook is WRONG

They put in a function around Spring 2010 in the iPhone app where it would sync your contact list. However, you could turn it off.

In April-ish this year (2011), there was an update for both iPhone and Android phones where if you used the "Find Friends" feature, it would grab all your phone contacts and upload them.

This latest one though is a mystery, maybe a bug?

The "Phonebook" entry in your Facebook friends list is simply a collection of phone numbers. The ones uploaded via your phone is only visible by you. The ones that people have put in their profile themselves are visible by whoever they let them (via their permissions settings).

One thing's for sure, the Facebook app doesn't tell you that it's going to grab your phone list at any time.

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Paris Hilton

This facility shows up interesting info

Facebook has an interesting facility where it looks at your contact list (through this syncing system, evidently) and points out people who have registered with facebook who you might know.

I've been known to dally with ladies of negotiable affection, and when I've connected to facebook via my 'alternate' phone more than once a lady of the night's real identitiy has popped us as she's obviously registered her 'working' number with facebook on her personal FB page. Given that working girls generally operate under a pseudonym for their own protection, this is an interesting security hole.

Anonymous because, well that should be obvious, and Paris, because, well that's obvious too...

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Paris Hilton

Rumour is half true

I've never expressly synced my phonebook (and can't find the button to re-sync it in the app!)

My friends appear with pics - fine.

However people that aren't my friends, but were in my phonebook, are also showing up. When I click through to these ladies' profiles their number isn't visible (is anyone daft enough to make that truly public). Presumably there's some fine-grained security for this. Bit scary to see the surnames/school/hometown/new pics of any passing Paris who's number you've got!

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They take Numbers off your Phone without asking

I've read a number of comments here incorrectly thinking this is about adding Phone numbers your contacts on facebook have loaded onto facebook. This is about Facebook taking all of your phone contacts and uploading them to their servers.

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Thank you!

At last, someone who has realised what the exact problem is.

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Even DEEPER than that...

(See my earlier post for more in-depth rant).

This is about them trying to pull a Hail Mary on Google and kicking Google in the teeth for daring to competed with fb on what fb considers to be "its own" turf.

But, now, they've seemingly got a way to get Google contacts without Google having a legal, corresponding reciprocation. Or, maybe there is one. But, since fb & google are spatting, this must be fb's way of getting at google contacts in peoples' phones.

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Coat

"....to kill the contacts list, there's this handy tool."

For everything else, there's Anonymous.......

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Bah!

Not sure why "Mark Z"'s name made it into the article since it seems irrelevant to the rest of the story.

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Facepalm

Read the security info

If you sync with Facebook, of course your phonebook gets sent to Facebook as well, not just info pulled from facebook. It isn't called sync for nothing. On Android when you first enter your account details, it explicitly asks if you want to sync everyone, or just the people you already friended. You also have the option to say it shouldn't sync. This is not rocket science people.

Also anyone who installs an app that ask permission to look into your contact list should know it is bound to use that info in some way. Buyer (or downloader) beware I'd say.

BTW: I did remove the synced contacts from facebook, but just because I think having it in one place (as in Google) is sufficient.

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Nope

It explicitly asks: "Add Facebook pictures, status and contact info to Contacts?". There's no mention of pulling data from your phone contacts to Facebook.

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Hey dumbo. Yes, they are.

Please explain how, if Facebook isn't sharing telephone numbers, why my telephone number (which was previously explicitly made private) is now in the contacts list of numerous people on Facebook. And given the fact that the telephone numbers of people I don't know are in my contacts list, I think it's fair to assume that my own telephone number has shown up in the contact lists of people I don't know.

I now have the telephone numbers of several passing acquaintances, who may or may not have wanted me to have that information. The telephone numbers of people I know and who have avoided joining Facebook due to security breaches like this have been stolen from my phone and are now on Facebook.

I pointedly use the word 'stolen' because I explicitly refused Facebook permission to sync my phone contacts, and they did it anyway. I double-checked the settings on my Facebook app and confirmed that this setting is still in place.

Almost everyone seems to be missing the reason why this incident is and should be so contentious. As far as I'm concerned, the issue isn't really about whether or not our phone numbers have been made available to others. I could frankly care less about my number being made public. The point is that Facebook has taken information from people's phones which, in at least some cases, they were explicitly refused access to. This isn't the first time they've shown themselves to have little regard for others' right to privacy.

However, even if you accept that Facebook's intentions are completely benign, the breaches in their security combined with their database of user information (which could contain anything at all they've managed to snag from us) should give everyone pause. Identity theft is a thing that still happens, and Facebook taking control of personal information away from its users (and even people who've never used Facebook in their lives) increases the chance of it happening. It's unconscionable, as far as I'm concerned.

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Hey, dumbo. Yes, they are.

Please explain how, if Facebook isn't sharing telephone numbers, why my telephone number (which was previously explicitly made private) is now in the contacts list of numerous people on Facebook. And given the fact that the telephone numbers of people I don't know are in my contacts list, I think it's fair to assume that my own telephone number has shown up in the contact lists of people I don't know.

I now have the telephone numbers of several passing acquaintances, who may or may not have wanted me to have that information. The telephone numbers of people I know and who have avoided joining Facebook due to security breaches like this have been stolen from my phone and are now on Facebook.

I pointedly use the word 'stolen' because I explicitly refused Facebook permission to sync my phone contacts, and they did it anyway. I double-checked the settings on my Facebook app and confirmed that this setting is still in place.

Almost everyone seems to be missing the reason why this incident is and should be so contentious. As far as I'm concerned, the issue isn't really about whether or not our phone numbers have been made available to others. I could frankly care less about my number being made public. The point is that Facebook has taken information from people's phones which, in at least some cases, they were explicitly refused access to. This isn't the first time they've shown themselves to have little regard for others' right to privacy.

However, even if you accept that Facebook's intentions are completely benign, the breaches in their security combined with their database of user information (which could contain anything at all they've managed to snag from us) should give everyone pause. Identity theft is a thing that still happens, and Facebook taking control of personal information away from its users (and even people who've never used Facebook in their lives) increases the chance of it happening. It's unconscionable, as far as I'm concerned.

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Blackberry's BBM service name racially sensitive ?

How long before our politically correct crowd moan about the racial implications of their sweet yobos, of a specific color, who just like to chuck objects through glass windows in the spirit of fun, getting their Blackberry's BBM service disconnected ( ouch)

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Stop

They have been harvesting for at least 2 years

About two years ago I had a blackberry that I let sync with facebook, this was under the understanding that it would only PULL contact info from my FB account and link it to contact numbers I already had in my phone. It was never made clear at the time that it would also rip all of the other contact details I had on my phone and store them on FB servers. I changed phones and carriers 2 years ago when I left working in Belgium, however, numbers that were stored on my blackberry are in the list. This means that FB was harvesting the data from my phone way back then.

I have no problem with syncing what facebook already knows about me and what my friends have agreed to share and tie them up to numbers I may have already had in my phone. This after all was all I perceived the function of the FB sync. At no time have I given permission to FB to scan and store all contact details from other people I had on my phone.

This is a blatant devious tactic employed by FB to misdirect and misinform people over personal information. Something which seems to be becoming increasingly more prevalent by them.

I am just grateful Google Plus has come to the table as people might now start switching over to a company with a little more openness about its operations.

DONT BE EVIL!

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Well, all this adamant denial can only mean one thing...

...and that's that Failbook is sharing our phone numbers around -- or perhaps getting ready to, if Failbook's previous pattern of behavior is any indication. I'm sure right now Fuckerberg is thinking "no, we're not sharing users' phone numbers _now_ -- but, thanks for the tip!"

That's why I didn't do the mobile phone "verification" on my account -- because I couldn't trust Failbook not to share/sell my mobile phone number, among other reasons ("It's a TRAP!").

I'm already getting enough robocall/SMS spam on my mobile these days as it is -- and, technically, telemarketing to mobile phones is supposed to be illegal (at least in the US).

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JB
Happy

Paste this into your status message:

"I'll fall for anything!"

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Oh come now

This is Facebook and they never intended to share a thing. What they wanted to do was sell all the phone numbers on your phone to all those companies with the annoying ads so they can call you while your in the loo of a handy Charbuck's coffee shop. Clearly the FB programmers aren't quite as skilled as the Zucker thinks they are.

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Anonymous Coward

hah! facebook

The only think true in my profile is the 'last logged in from' ip address.

On another note, if Facebook owns the word book (preceeded by anything), why would they rename their Phonebook application?

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