Facebook disables ability to share home address with apps


18 Jan 2011

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Facebook is temporarily disabling the feature that lets users share their mobile number and address with third-party app developers, following privacy concerns.

On Friday evening, Facebook announced third-party app developers could access a user’s home address and mobile phone number that they have on their profile when they agree to download an app.

However, following criticism over privacy protection from users and security experts, Facebook has decided to temporarily disable this feature and make some changes in order to ensure that users only share this information when they clearly intend to do so.

Facebook noted that the feature was made to allow users to share their mobile number and address with a shopping site to streamline the purchasing process or sign up for text alerts on special deals.

Privacy

However, the new feature raised fears that users may grant permission to share their home addresses with third-party app developers without realising.

Some were worried it could be a new way for scammers to gain access to such personal information of Facebook users.

“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,” said Graham Cluley of Sophos.

“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.

“Now, shady app developers will find it easier than ever before to gather even more personal information from users. You can imagine, for instance, that bad guys could set up a rogue app that collects mobile phone numbers and then uses that information for the purposes of SMS spamming or sells on the data to cold-calling companies.

“The ability to access users’ home addresses will also open up more opportunities for identity theft, combined with the other data that can already be extracted from Facebook users’ profiles,” Cluley said.

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