Monday, October 11, 2010

Facebook Contacts linger longer than you might think

Okay… Like most people at some point, I asked Facebook to check to see if any of my contacts were on Facebook. It did its thing, I selected some and moved on, never really thinking much more about it. What I didn’t realise is that Facebook keeps all that data.

All of it. Not just the friends you add. They keep the contacts you didn’t add too, that includes work, business, confidential numbers and emails etc. If you go and look at your Facebook Phonebook (no, I didn’t realise I had one either) you’ll see the full list. And you’ll quickly see not just your Facebook contacts but everyone who you had in your contact database when you checked for contacts. Be it your Apple Addressbook or your Outlook contacts or Yahoo or whatever.

Your Facebook Phonebook is available by Clicking on Account then choosing Edit Friends and selecting Phonebook from the sidebar. Up it pops.

Safari hosted by Ember

Now here you see the first listing of my contacts. None of them are Facebook friends, actually only one of them is on Facebook. That doesn’t stop Facebook keeping their telephone numbers and email address however.

Friends who are in your address book but not on Facebook (or use a different email address for Facebook) will appear with ‘Invite to join Facebook’ down the bottom. Their telephone numbers are listed and presumably their email addresses are stored too. Friends who are on Facebook have an ‘Add to Friends’ link.

Spot the small ‘Learn more’ in the top line above? Clicking on it brings up the following dialog box.

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There’s no actual instruction how to disable the feature on your mobile device but my bet is most people uploaded a contact file at some point. Clicking on the ‘this page’ link again at the end brings up this dialog box.

RemoveQuery hosted by Ember

This is a by now standard Facebook wording designed to discourage you from protecting your privacy. Their standard approach is to discourage through planting some uncertainty every time you protect your data.

Clicking ‘Remove’ brings up this.

Safari hosted by Ember

The troubling thing is most of you who know me probably have my numbers and addresses in yours….even if you’re not my friend on Facebook. I have over 3,000 contacts in my Mac Addressbook, and only a few hundred contacts on Facebook. But Facebook has held on to those telephone numbers and email addresses years after I checked when I first joined.
There’s very little hope of them all being deleted, most people won’t be bothered to do it.

The answer lies in Facebook’s hands, but the simple courtesy of not storing data after a contact list check seems to be beyond them.

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