Facebook backtracks on apps grabbing address, cell number

In a quick about-face, the social network is temporarily disabling a new tweak that gave third-party apps the ability to record someone's address and cell number.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
2 min read

Facebook is temporarily putting the kibosh on a new tweak that gave apps the ability to capture someone's cell number and address.

Pushed through on Friday, the new change expanded on the information already available to third-party app developers based on a user's permissions.

When downloading a Facebook app, people have always been asked if they want to share their name, picture, friends list, and other information. The change threw in an additional request asking to share a person's address and mobile phone number.

Concerns quickly arose that Facebook users might click the option to allow access without even thinking or that phony, malicious apps could tap into the new feature to snatch addresses and cell numbers. In response, CNET blogger Larry Magid explained how to remove your address and mobile number from your Facebook profile entirely.

In a blog post late yesterday, Facebook said it had received useful "feedback" from users over the weekend on ways to make the process more transparent. As a result, the company has temporarily taken the feature offline with the goal of refining it to help people understand that they're intentionally choosing to share such information. Facebook is promising that an improved version will find its way back online in the next few weeks.

Privacy concerns over Facebook are nothing new. The company has a history of surprising its users with tweaks to the site that potentially leave their personal information more exposed. Facebook also has a habit of testing the waters with such changes and then backtracking when people complain.