Thursday, December 7, 2023

Facebook Secret Tool to Remove User’s Phone Numbers & Email Addresses

Facebook has introduced a new secret tool that allows users check whether the firm holds their contact information, such as their phone number or email address, and delete and block it. This tool is available since May 29, 2022.

The tool’s existence was first reported by Business Insider last week. On a Help Center page on “Friending” on Facebook, it is covered. For “Non-users” to “exercise their rights under applicable legislation,” it is made available.

The Working of Contact-Blocking Tool

Facebook’s parent firm Meta states that even though you may not have signed up to use any core Meta service — such as the Facebook app, Messenger, or Instagram — it may still have your contact information.

Meta's contact-deletion tool
Meta will scan its databases for your contact information

Generally, for many years, the company requested contact information from customers who signed up for any of its apps in order to help them discover friends.

“A side effect is that Meta, whose combined apps boast almost 3 billion daily users, has amassed an unknown but likely vast amount of personal contact information for people who have never signed up for an account, nor opted to share their information”, according to Business Insider.

This new feature asks whether you want to scan for a phone number, landline number, or email address that may have been uploaded by a friend who uses Meta’s core apps: Facebook, Messenger, or Instagram.

Meta's contact-deletion tool
Meta will send a confirmation code to any phone number or email you want to check

Facebook states that “you can ask us to confirm whether we have your phone number or email address”. 

“If we do, you can request that we delete it from our address book database. To prevent it from being uploaded to this database again through someone’s address book, we need to keep a copy in our block list”.

Meta's contact-deletion tool
Meta’s contact-deletion tool

In this case, users can enter any contact details and upload to Meta’s services. Meta will ask if you want that contact information blocked.

Experts say “deleting and blocking this small amount of data is one drop in the ocean compared to what else Meta has on you, regardless of whether or not you use its apps”.

Business Insider stated that the development is another case of a company acknowledging that it harvested data that shouldn’t have been collected, and passing on the responsibility to the users to have them removed.

“To me, the Facebook tool is privacy labor. They collected data they should not have collected in the first place, and are now shifting responsibility on you to remove it”, said Heather Burns, author of the book “Understanding Privacy”.

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