The Facebook Contacts Kerfuffle – The Immediacy of Privacy

The blogosphere has been atwitter regarding the revelation that the Facebook mobile app can scrape contact information and post this to your Facebook page. But Digital Media Wire summed the controversy up best – “Fine, except that this news wasn’t hidden or nefarious. It wasn’t even news.” This is a feature that has existed for four years.

Facebook responded with a post trying to reduce the public frustration. “The phone numbers listed there were either added by your friends themselves and made visible to you, or you have previously synced your phone contacts with Facebook.”

Responses to the post reflect a good deal of continued frustration that the mobile app pulls phone number data. The user sets the privacy data, of course, and according to Facebook these numbers are not re-published as a list.

This means that the contact list is shown only to the Facebook account holder, not published generally. It is the people who don’t restrict their personal information that are having the information distributed – and the contact list on their friends’ sites is the least of their worries.

Part of the confusion is that those friends who leave their contact information public are now appearing in the Facebook Contacts directory without being invited in. Another concern is that to disable the feature, a user must both remove the mobile contacts from Facebook and from the Facebook Contacts page.

A four-year-old feature become new again as the adoption of mobile apps changes the scale of use and the population of users. So the feature may be old; but the concerns are very modern.