Facebook suspends phone, address sharing plans

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Facebook suspends phone, address sharing plans

Third-party devs temporarily barred from addresses, mobile phone numbers.

Facebook has suspended plans to enable third-party application developers to request users' geographical addresses and mobile phone numbers.

The plans were announced on Saturday on the social network's developer blog, which included instructions for requesting users' permission to access their contact information.

Because the data was deemed "sensitive information", Facebook required third party application developers to obtain users' permissions via the site's standard dialogues.

According to Facebook's platform policies, developers could only request data that was required to run their applications.

A spokesman for the site said the change would help "to make applications built on Facebook more useful and efficient", but it raised privacy concerns with organisations like Electronic Frontiers Australia and Sophos.

EFA acknowledged that legitimate uses for users' addresses and phone numbers could include the delivery of goods, coordinating local social networks and SMS notifications of important events of interest to the user.

But "illegitimate users are out there as well," EFA chair Colin Jacobs wrote, highlighting the potential use of such information for junk mail, spam SMS, bill collectors, thieves and stalkers.

Noting that Facebook apps did not go under strict quality control processes, Jacobs warned that users could be tricked into granting permissions to "dodgier operators".

Paul Ducklin, the regional head of technology at security vendor Sophos, agreed, arguing that Facebook should have made a more publicly visible effort to eliminate rogue application providers before allowing developers to request addresses and phone numbers.

In a new post to Facebook's developer blog on Tuesday, its director of developer relations Douglas Purdy said it agreed that it "could make people more clearly aware of when they are granting access to this data".

"We are making changes to help ensure you only share this information when you intend to do so," he wrote.

"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."

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