Arun Stephens

Got a number but no name? Facebook will tell you!

There’s been a bit of news about Facebook’s new (or at least newly publicised) Contacts feature. The gist of it is that when installing the mobile app, you can have it sync your phone contacts with Facebook. That way, all your contacts are available on Facebook, and you also get Facebook friends’ phone numbers on your phone.

But what I haven’t seen mentioned, and what I noticed today, was that in my Contacts on Facebook, there were a whole lot of random people’s names and photos. With an Add Friend button.

Who are these people?

Most of them were French. I used to live in France. I moved there nearly five years ago. I was only there for a year, as a teaching assistant. A lot of my friends there were also doing the same. And we all had mobiles. And we don’t any more. That was over four years ago. And numbers get recycled.

So now I have names, photos and telephone numbers of strange people in France, because Facebook is making the assumption that if I have a phone number in my phone, and someone else has the same phone number in their Facebook profile, I might know them. It’s not the case, and it’s downright creepy. Some of these people don’t even have public profiles. Yet Facebook has sent me to their profile.

It’s not difficult to put a specific phone number (or a whole series of numbers) into my contacts, sync with Facebook, and then have the names, photos and any other public information Facebook has on whoever has that number. A nefarious individual would have a field day. They could call somebody, ask for them by name, know where they work and who their friends are. Children could also be put in danger.

This is either a major bug, or it just hasn’t been thought through properly. Just because I have a phone number doesn’t mean I know who they are. And it definitely doesn’t mean Facebook should tell me.