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Facebook temporarily disables sharing of user addresses, phone numbers with apps, websites

January 18, 2011 | 10:07 am

FacebookDeveloperBlogDouglasPurdy

Facebook is temporarily holding off on sharing its users' addresses and phone numbers with developers and websites after a bit of frustration from its users and security experts.

But the move to grant access to such information to external websites and applications isn't going away altogether, Facebook said in a post on its Developer Blog on Tuesday morning.

For now, the ability for third-party Facebook app developers and websites to request a user's address and phone number has been disabled, but it will come back, the company said.

Facebook first announced the move to grant such access Friday night.

"Over the weekend, we got some useful feedback that we could make people more clearly aware of when they are granting access to this data," wrote Douglas Purdy, a Facebook spokesman. "We agree, and we are making changes to help ensure you only share this information when you intend to do so.

"We'll be working to launch these updates as soon as possible, and will be temporarily disabling this feature until those changes are ready. We look forward to re-enabling this improved feature in the next few weeks."

50234_20531316728_9575_n Graham Cluley, a security expert at Sophos who writes for its Naked Security blog, described the decision on Facebook's part to enable the sharing of such information as a "move that could herald a new level of danger for Facebook users."

Cluley and others warned that the ability to access users' home addresses and phone numbers would create increased risk for identity theft, particularly when combined with the other data already available to be extracted from Facebook profiles.

"I realise that Facebook users will only have their personal information accessed if they 'allow' the app to do so, but there are just too many attacks happening on a daily basis which trick users into doing precisely this," Cluley wrote.

"Facebook is already plagued by rogue applications that post spam links to users' walls, and point users to survey scams that earn them commission -- and even sometimes trick users into handing over their cellphone numbers to sign them up for a premium rate service."

One bit of advice Cluley offered was to simply not list any address or phone number on a Facebook profile, much less any other information that a user wouldn't want shared with the public.

Facebook declined on Monday to give any reason as to why applications and websites would want or need a user's address or phone number, but explained a bit of its rationale in Purdy's post Tuesday.

"With this change, you could, for example, easily share your address and mobile phone with a shopping site to streamline the checkout process, or sign up for up-to-the-minute alerts on special deals directly to your mobile phone," Purdy said.

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

twitter.com/nateog

Top Image: A screenshot of Facebook spokesman Douglas Purdy announcing in a blog that Facebook is temporarily disabling access to user addresses and phone numbers to third-party app devlopers and websites. The access is expected to return in a few weeks. Bottom Image: The Facebook F logo. Credit: Facebook

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