Social media

Facebook and Your Phone Number

I was astounded yesterday to find out that Facebook was publishing everyone’s phone number.  Yes, that’s right, they are now publishing your phone number.  Just click edit friends on the top right of the home page, and then click on the phone book icon on the left side of the page, and voila, all your friends’ phone numbers appear.

After some digging around, I figured out in the privacy settings, how to restrict my phone number to “just me”.  (The complexity of the privacy settings navigation could confound even the most experienced of Facebookers.  But that is another issue.)

I was astounded.  But it appears that these privacy issues are limited to a few old fogies like me. A recent white paper on the Top 11 Digital Predictions for 2011 from Millward Brown and Dynamic Logic suggests that “consumers will trade privacy for relevance”. That is, they are willing to pay for more relevant content with access to private information. 

I suspect that most people don’t see a downside to this.  They feel that they get a useful service for “free”, as they don’t believe that the sharing of this private information costs them anything.

My suspicion is that the true costs of giving up privacy may be much higher than we imagine.  In responsible hands, there is no problem.  But many marketers are not known for being responsible.  Marketers could use this information to manipulate our behaviours.  They could begin to erode our rights.  This could have implications for insurance, employment and many other critical areas in our lives.

Meantime, make sure that you have changed your privacy settings, otherwise, you may find your phone number in hands that you don’t expect.


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