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Facebook in privacy palaver as it backs down from sharing your phone number

The social network was allowing apps and external sites to potentially access your home address and phone number, but has removed the feature after the usual online outcry.

Facebook is caught up in yet another privacy palaver. The social network began allowing apps and external sites to access users' home address and phone number, but has quickly withdrawn the option after the usual wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth online.

The story of Facebook's privacy policy has had more twists and turns than a Hollywood thriller. Not a very thrilling one, admittedly -- it wouldn't win any Golden Globes, anyway. The latest development was a feature that allowed app developers to access your phone number and home address, which many users felt wasn't made clear enough.

When you add an app, you're given a screen asking you to approve the company behind the app having access to your data. There's no choice of which bits of data you are or aren't prepared to share: it's either yes or no. Some apps need information including your phone number to work -- say if it needs to text you, or to speed up a shopping site. Others simply don't, but there's no option to use the app or play the game without sharing specific data.

Controversy over the sharing of phone number and address has led to Facebook withdrawing the feature. Like James Bond, it will return, however, as Facebook plans to make it clearer what information you're sharing. The feature will be re-enabled "in the next few weeks".

While it's one thing to happily fork over the tiniest intimacies of your life to ZuckerCo, it's another to share every detail with every Tom, Dick and Harry Developer, right? Who knows where it could end up if distributed so widely, whether a developer sells data or is simply hacked.

The simple solution is not to post all our data on Facebook -- just because there's a box for our phone number doesn't mean we have to fill it in. Are you happy to share your data with whoever wants it? Is privacy an illusion? Share your thoughts in the comments or on our Facebook wall. Don't tell us your phone number though. Unless you're fit.