Facebook's _Look Up_ setting

The phone number can be used to “look up” the user profile. However, the social media giant has not given the option to opt-out yet.

Facebook has become a center of new controversy as the phone number used for two-factor verification has been associated with the user profile. The phone number can be used to “look up” the user profile. However, the social media giant has not given the option to opt-out yet.

It has been found that the default setting of the social media platform has been allowing everyone, with or without the Facebook account, to look up to the profile with the help of phone number that was added to the account. The concern was raised by Jeremy Burge through a tweet. He mentioned that there can be misuse of collection of phone numbers by Facebook. He tweeted, “For years Facebook claimed the adding a phone number for 2FA was only for security. Now it can be searched and there’s no way to disable that.” He also mentioned an image which showed that users can “look up” the profile as the default setting allowed access to “everyone”. Other options were “friends of friends” or “friends”. However, there was no option with which users can hide the profile completely.

The security expert Zeynep Tufekci retweeted the tweet of Jeremy Burge with an opinion stating, “Using security to further weaken privacy is a lousy move — especially since phone numbers can be hijacked to weaken security.” This can be used for SIM swapping, in which scammers can steal phone numbers from customers and invade into their accounts. He added that users of Facebook who provided the phone numbers only for security cannot keep their numbers private.

Jay Nancarrow, Facebook spokesperson, told TechCrunch, the settings “are not new.” He added, “The setting applies to any phone numbers you added to your profile and isn’t specific to any feature.”

Users have an option to set up two-factor authentication without a phone number. When a phone number is provided to Facebook for 2FA, it can become targetable for advertisers within a couple of weeks. However, if users have not given the phone number to the social media platform, there have been cases in which Facebook has collected them without the permission. Many users have raised concerns regarding collection of their phone numbers by the social media giant without their explicit permission. Commenting on the issues raised by users, Facebook said, “We appreciate the feedback we’ve received about these settings and will take it into account.”

Users need to switch the “look up” setting to “Friends” to reduce the risk of misusing the data. Those users who are not unaware of the vulnerability may face the unforeseen circumstances. Moreover, the social media giant should offer the solution as soon as possible. Though, it has not commented on the future steps regarding this, Facebook needs to take the step considering the privacy protection of users. Else, users have to face the consequences of the lack of privacy.