Facebook, which has been under constant scrutiny following a slew of accusations and revelations about privacy or false information, is again in the hot seat. The company confirmed that it uses phone numbers provided by users for security purposes to target them with ads.
Following a revealing story on a similar matter by Gizmodo, the company admitted to the behavior. This is not the first time Facebook has been revealed to be less-than-ethical in its dealings with private information, and it is moves like this that are pushing young people away from the app in droves. The Gizmodo story covered “shadow profiles,” or the information gathered by Facebook that you didn’t provide and was instead gathered from other people’s information.
The numbers provided by users to complete two-factor authentification—or 2FA—were then used to target users with ads. 2FA is a security technique that adds another layer of authentification to help keep accounts more secure. In February, Facebook admitted to a bug in the two-step authentification after users reported a high number of Facebook notifications through the number they provided for the authentification. Facebook did not, however, address the fact that the process, once fixed, would be used for ad targeting.
“We use the information people provide to offer a better, more personalized experience on Facebook, including ads,” a Facebook spokesperson told Gizmodo in a statement. “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.”
Lashback on Twitter was swift and condemning, as people pointed out that forcing them to choose between security and privacy is a great way to lose business. User @iodboi said “never cross the streams. Forcing users to choose between security and privacy all in the attempt to generate extra $$$ is in the worst long-term interests for all involved.”
The repurposing by Facebook of phone numbers, provided by users for SMS 2FA, to better target for advertising is utterly disgusting. I’m not easily shocked, but this… https://t.co/qFNgqMDFL1— Elizatech (@FitzTechLawIE) September 26, 2018
Facebook is advising people to turn off 2fa if they don’t want their phone number to be used by advertisers.— Jelle Prins (@jelleprins) September 27, 2018
I want to delete Facebook. Only events is keeping me from doing so.
Never cross the streams. Forcing users to pick between security & privacy all in the attempt to generate extra $$$ is in the worst long term interests for all involved.@facebook you know better than this 😤https://t.co/i0G3tLg8bT— Rich Smith (@iodboi) September 27, 2018
A spokesperson for Facebook told TechCrunch that users can opt out of this experience by, well, opting out of this experience. The social media site essentially told TechCrunch that if users don’t want the heightened ads, they could not use 2FA.
It looks like users have a simple choice. Either accept the privacy concerns and continue to use Facebook, find another way to protect your information, or just ditch the app altogether.