Wednesday 17 January 2018

Facebook collects members' mobile numbers but experts warn about sharing

FACEBOOK has begun asking for all its members' mobile phone numbers, saying it will help them regain access to their account if they forget their passwords.

The request is part of an alert appearing on all profile pages inviting members to "stay in control of your account by following these simple security tips".

Facebook then asks for a mobile number, explaning that "if you forget your password, we'll be able to text you a new one".

"This is a security measure to help ensure that Facebook remains a community of people using their real identities to connect and share," Facebook said on an explanatory page.

"If you ever lose your password, you’ll also be able to use your mobile number to access your account."

But security experts warned that Facebook has a record of sharing mobile numbers with third parties.

"I'd be quite wary of this," said Graham Cluley of the British security firm Sophos.

"We know that Facebook has goofed on this in the past. They shared mobile numbers with third party apps, and these can be malicious. There have been example of scam Facebook apps collecting phone numbers and signing people up to premium rate services."

Facebook gave third party developers access to addresses and mobile numbers last year, if the member clicks a permission screen.

It was seen as part of the social network's effort to keep pace with the smartphone revolution, which has since become more urgent. Before its flotation last month, Facebook warned that growing use of mobile devices represented a threat to its business because it does not make any money from its apps or mobile website.

"Facebook's default has always been that you have to opt out of sharing your data, rather than trying to convince you of the positive benefits, because they know fewer people would do it," said Mr Cluley.

He however noted that some people now "hold their Facebook account very dear as their main way of staying in touch wioth people, and for them losing access for even a short time would be a nightmare".

Facebook already offers several ways for members to recover their passwords, including answering security questions and identifying their friends in photographs.

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