Nova Scotia

Facebook users question phone security

A Facebook warning is circulating cautioning smartphone users about their personal information going online, but one Halifax lawyer says it's a bit of a miscommunication that Facebook should remedy.
A Facebook warning is circulating that cautions smartphone users about their personal information going online, but one Halifax lawyer says it's a bit of a miscommunication that Facebook should address.
This warning has been circulating Facebook recently. (Facebook)

Status updates are circulating on Facebook warning smartphone users that their personal phone numbers are online for everyone to see.

But nobody visiting your Facebook profile can see your slate of accumulated phone numbers — just you.

What many users will have noticed is changes to the Facebook phonebook. If you have a smartphone and the Facebook app and have allowed the app to access your address books, all the phone numbers in your phone are now visible to you on Facebook — even if your contacts aren't on Facebook.

Facebook addressed the rumour on its site Wednesday.

"The phone numbers listed there were either added by your friends themselves and made visible to you, or you have previously synced your phone contacts with Facebook," says the post.

This isn't a new change to Facebook; the feature first rolled out in January 2010.

How to turn it off

- Go to Account.

- Click on Edit Friends.

- Choose Contacts.

- Remove imported contacts in your Facebook phonebook.

If you're still not happy, you can file a complaint with Canada's privacy commissioner.

Halifax privacy lawyer David Fraser said Facebook hasn't done a good job of communicating with its users as smartphone users take a lot of information mobile.

"It's all of a sudden on your phone, and when they bring that to your attention, it's hard to understand what that means, what are the consequences? It just sounds bad."

Legally, Fraser said, when you click "accept," you are entering into a contract. Canada's privacy laws allow reasonable use of your information if you have given permission to a third party.

Public wariness

The strong reaction to yet another change by Facebook is proof of the public's growing wariness of social networking.

Fraser said the only baseline in Canadian law for what these companies can do with your information is that is be for a reasonable purpose.
Smartphone users should read the fine print when downloading apps, says one Halifax lawyer. (CBC)

"You could come up with an app that does incredibly intrusive things and as long as somebody understands what it is that they're consenting to and freely gives their consent to that you can go ahead and have that application. So the most important piece that you're dealing with is communicating with users what's going on, how their information is going to be used."

Haligonian Duncan Bayne admits he's being cautious with his smartphone.

"Anything I use my phone for, I make sure if anyone else got that information, it's not that big a concern to me. It's just like, maybe they know what I'm doing tonight as opposed to any other information that could be very valuable."