Facebook Exposes Your Phone Number for All. Here's How to Change That

Facebook is facing a new wave of criticism for two-factor authentication shenanigans

As pointed out by the folks over at TechCrunch, Facebook has now associated the phone numbers entered by users to secure their account with two-factor authentication with their profiles, essentially allowing anyone to look them up using their phone numbers. The problem for users is that when Facebook associates the phone number with their accounts, the user's profiles are linked with the phone numbers. He explained in a series of tweets that Facebook lets its users decide if their phone numbers can be used this way by everyone, friends of friends, or friends. But there's no way to hide it completely.

Emoji historian (yes, that's his real occupation) Jeremy Burge sounded the alarm on Twitter after noticing that the setting to allow people to look up users via their phone number was set to "everyone" by default. It's possible to limit this to just your circle of friends, but it's set to everyone by default, which could lead to unwanted lookups.

And what's even worse is that Facebook does a poor job at informing users how their 2FA number is used for other parts of the service.

'Now it can be searched and there's no way to disable that'. Third-party systems, like Google Authenticator and Duo Security can also be used to add an additional layer of protection onto your account. "We appreciate the feedback we've received about these settings and will take it into account".

Facebook had partly disabled such phone-number searches in the past, preventing people from finding someone's profile directly from their number: in April 2018, the ad biz said it had switched off phone number search following the Cambridge Analytica scandal, citing abuse. Users have the option to remove their phone number from their account, though that would preclude using it for account recovery. Facebook also maintains that the setting isn't specific to any feature. From there, click on the "privacy" tab and you'll find the setting in question under the "how people find and contact you" banner.

'For years Facebook claimed the adding a phone number for 2FA [two-factor authentication] was only for security, ' Burge tweeted.

Facebook also apparently shares numbers used for 2FA with its other services.

'The original FB phone number prompt never mentioned "and more", Burge adds.

For all the privacy concerns and data breaches that have risen around Facebook in recent years, it's easy to forget the smaller instances of data vulnerability built into the foundation of user profiles.

They found "that phone numbers and email addresses added as profile attributes, those provided for security purposes such as two-factor authentication, those provided to the Facebook Messenger app for the objective of messaging, and those included in friends' uploaded contact databases are all used by Facebook to allow advertisers to target users".

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