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Alarming: Facebook slammed for adding mobile contacts to profiles without consent

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opednews.com Headlined to H3 8/18/16

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The social media network crossed 1.65 billion active users
The social media network crossed 1.65 billion active users
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Facebook have been pushing users to add their cell numbers to their profiles since years. But even those who do not add their contact have noticed that their numbers are being added to their social network's profile. The shocked users have expressed their exasperation over Twitter. Very few people know that these cell numbers, even if unconfirmed, can be used to reveal private information without consent and it simply means that anyone can potentially access their name, pictures, and location.

The multi-billion-dollar enterprise, which thrives on information, has taken a different track recently -- taking mobile numbers from other, less-direct sources and adding them to profiles. And then users who haven't added their numbers willingly are asked to verify whether the suggested number belongs to them.

While most of the users inadvertently verify their number, this deception has irked some who do not want to add their contact info for privacy reasons.

Adding cell contacts to one's profile may have serious implications as it makes personal data vulnerable to be used by stalkers, hackers, and other cyber-criminals.

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Facebook users' personal data may be retrieved through their cell-contact numbers simply through a random-number algorithm; hence users need to think twice before putting a phone number on their profile.

For instance, if one leaves his or her number on the OLX website to sell something, anyone could look them up on Facebook and know the name, appearance, and some basic details and possibly, even more information -depending on the privacy settings. Criminals may build up a profile about users through random-number generation.

Hence the primary question remains unanswered. How did Facebook get the number if a user himself has not added or confirmed? According to Facebook's Online Help Center they might have a user's cell number because it was given to them in the past, or it may have been received from the contact information provided by other Facebook users during some application downloading. As gaming apps like Candy Crush push users to allow them access over their friends' list and accounts.

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While the Facebook claims that the number is only be added to the account if users opts to confirm and verify it, most users simply do not know that they can adjust their privacy settings to stop people searching their information using a phone number.

Here another dilemma emerges. Why Facebook doesn't intimate the users of these privacy hazards? It should be kept in mind that unlike conventional companies who focus on building products, Facebook thrives on users' data; it is in fact founded on the principle of free sharing of data. Its profit depends on the volume of networking. Adding phone numbers multiplies networking and so the Facebook profit.

One other reason for insisting on phone contacts may be surveillance as it is not hidden now that intelligence agencies are gathering data through social networks. This is my personal observation that wildlife departments in a countries like Pakistan are charging illegal hunters on the basis of their images available on social media. It may help the law enforcement if used appropriately.

Facebook data vulnerability due to unawareness of their privacy policy is not a new phenomenon. Users have been complaining about it ever since Mark Zuckerberg launched the public social network. Experts intimidate users not to share anything over Facebook unless they want to make it public. Better said than done!


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Tazeen Hasan is a Pakistani freelance journalist and activist based in North America. In the past, she has written for Sharq-al-Awsat group of Newspapers in the Arab World. Jang and Nawa-e-Waqt groups Pakistan. Currently, she is engaged with (more...)

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