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The phone number you never gave Facebook can be used for ad targeting

YOU MAY RARELY USE your phone number nowadays, but the good news is that somebody is still getting some use out of it. The bad news is that it’s the creepy data-slurping behemoth Facebook. Researchers have discovered that the company can use your phone number to advertise at you, even if you’ve never shared it with Facebook.

When Gizmodo first revealed that targeted adverts could be aimed at a person via a phone number, even if they hadn’t provided the number as part of their profile, Facebook admitted that, yes, it may sometimes use the number you provided for two-factor-authentication for adverts. But, why are you being so hard on it? It only wanted to give you the best possible ad-based experience like any caring international tech giant would.

“We use the information people provide to offer a better, more personalised experience on Facebook, including ads,” said a Facebook spokesperson. “We are clear about how we use the information we collect, including the contact information that people upload or add to their own accounts. You can manage and delete the contact information you’ve uploaded at any time.”

So that’s alright then. The company also said that if you’re the kind of killjoy that doesn’t want their security information used for flogging slippers, you can just switch to a form of 2FA that doesn’t involve a phone number. This option has been available for four whole months so what are you complaining about? No, you couldn’t do it before then, but in fairness, you didn’t know your privacy was being sold down the river at the time, so you wouldn’t have wanted to anyway. Stop being so unreasonable.

But go back to Facebook’s statement again and there’s more hidden between the lines.

Here it is again with some added emphasis: “We use the information people provide to offer a better, more personalised experience on Facebook, including ads. We are clear about how we use the information we collect, including the contact information that people upload or add to their own accounts. You can manage and delete the contact information you’ve uploaded at any time.”

In other words, they’re conflating information that you’ve provided – which can be removed –  and that which its picked up from elsewhere, which can’t. One example confirmed as working by the researchers: if a friend shares their contacts with Facebook, and it includes your phone number, advertisers can use it, but you can’t delete it – because the information belongs to the friend, and not you.

People own their address books,” a Facebook spokesperson told Gizmodo. “We understand that in some cases this may mean that another person may not be able to control the contact information someone else uploads about them.”

Understanding is a positive first step. Actually taking action would be a useful second. µ

Source : Inquirer

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Founder and Editor-in-Chief of 'Professional Hackers India'. Technology Evangelist, Security Analyst, Cyber Security Expert, PHP Developer and Part time hacker.

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