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Facebook Offers App Makers Your Home Address and Phone Number

request for permission
Update: Facebook has temporarily suspended contact information sharing with developers.

On Friday, Facebook quietly announced that app developers will now be able to access users' home addresses and mobile numbers, in a move that has already raised concerns among privacy advocates and security experts alike.

Developers who take advantage of this new feature will still have to request permission to access a user's personal information, but you could be forgiven for not noticing a subtle change to the page's layout -- specifically, a new subsection titled 'Access my contact information.' Under this heading, Facebook clarifies (in a light grey font), that granting access to a given application will allow the developer to obtain your 'Current Address and Mobile Phone Number.'

As All Facebook points out, the new wrinkle could offer some very real benefits to users, by expanding Facebook's Open Graph network. The more personal information that Facebook registers, the easier it becomes for users to register with other sites in just a few clicks. The only problem, of course, is that many users still have trouble trusting Facebook with that kind of information--especially when companies like RapLeaf are discretely selling that information to anonymous parties. Phone numbers and addresses may not be quite as tightly protected as, say, credit card numbers, but it's still probably more information than most people are willing to share with strangers.

Then, there's the issue of security. As we all know, plenty of Facebook spammers use rogue applications to lure users into granting them access to their profile -- which, once obtained, allows them to spam a user's wall. Now that developers have the ability to tap into a user's contact information, users could be even more vulnerable to nefarious forces. "You can imagine, for instance, that bad guys could set up a rogue app that collects mobile phone numbers and then uses that information for the purposes of SMS spamming or sells on the data to cold-calling companies," Sophos explains. "The ability to access users' home addresses will also open up more opportunities for identity theft, combined with the other data that can already be extracted from Facebook users' profiles."

Sophos goes on to suggest that Facebook implement some sort of screening process, which app developers would have to pass before obtaining access to the new feature. It would certainly make a lot of sense, and save a lot of headaches, but we'll have to wait and see if Facebook actually listens. In the meantime, if you're worried about how these changes may expose your personal information, Sophos recommends completely removing your phone number and home address from your profile. It may seem drastic, but if you're worried about clicking on something you shouldn't, it's probably better to err on the side of caution.

Tags: address, apps, development, facebook, FacebookApps, FacebookPrivacy, fraud, identity theft, IdentityTheft, phone, privacy, security, SocialNetworking, top