Facebook's phonebook fiasco

Want to find the phone numbers of all your friends and some strangers, too? Just look inside your Facebook contacts page.


Who are all these people, and what are their phone numbers doing on my Facebook contacts page? That’s the question I am now asking.

I have 987 Facebook friends, some of whom I actually know. A handful of them are on my Android phone. Most if not all of the contacts inside my mobile phone are now listed in Facebook – as well as numbers for things like the pizza joint down the street, which doesn’t have a Facebook page.

You know how it goes on Facebook – somebody you don’t know asks to be your friend, you look over their friends list, decide they probably aren’t an axe murderer or a Tea Party member, and you say Yes, because Facebook is a fairly low risk, low maintenance connection. And if they prove to be truly annoying you can always block or defriend them later.

The vast majority of these people did not voluntarily give me their phone numbers. Some probably would if I asked, others might decline. But Facebook just gave me all their numbers – no questions asked. Apparently it’s because they elected to share their contact information with the world, so Facebook took the next step and added their info to my list.

Want to see for yourself? Launch Facebook, click Account and then Edit Friends, then select Contacts from the menu on the left. You should see a long list of profile pictures with phone numbers attached.

My Facebook phonebook: Who are all these people?

It gets weirder. There are also people whom I do not know, who are not in my Android phone’s contact list, with whom I share no connection whatsoever and have no friends in common, who are in my Facebook phone book. Now Facebook is asking if I want to friend them. I have no idea why.

And some of them are minors.

Wait, it gets weirder still. As regular readers of TY4NS may remember, I have a few Facebook alias accounts that I use for testing. None of these have their own cell phones or contact lists, so I never imported any contacts to them. Yet these accounts also display the phone numbers of everyone in their respective friends’ lists. So despite what Facebook’s contacts page says, this has nothing to do with using Facebook’s mobile app.

As Swiss developer Kurt Von Moos points out, Facebook has been syncing mobile contacts this way for some time. I’d just never clicked the contacts page before. He writes:

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