Facebook appears to have silently rolled out a tool that allows users to remove their contact information, such as phone numbers and email addresses, uploaded by others.
The existence of the tool, which is buried inside a Help Center page about “Friending,” was first reported by Business Insider last week. It’s offered as a way for “Non-users” to “exercise their rights under applicable laws.”
An Internet Archive search via the Wayback Machine shows that the option has been available since at least May 29, 2022.
When users sync the contact lists on their devices with Facebook (or any other service), it’s worth pointing out the privacy violation, which stems from the fact that those contacts didn’t explicitly consent to the upload.
“Someone may have uploaded their address book to Facebook, Messenger or Instagram with your contact information in it,” Facebook notes in the page. “You can ask us to confirm whether we have your phone number or email address.”
If the information is present in Facebook or Instagram, it can be requested for deletion from its address book database, although Meta says it needs a copy of the phone number or email address to be added to a block list maintained by the company so as to prevent it from being re-uploaded.
In other words, Facebook may still end up having the contact information of those who are looking to get them removed from the platform in the first place, albeit in a different form.
While the utility is primarily aimed at non-users, it allows any user to prevent this information from being shared from their friends’ contact lists in the same manner as that of TrueCaller’s Unlisting functionality.
As Business Insider points out, the development is another instance of a company acknowledging that it harvested data that shouldn’t have been collected, and passing on the responsibility to the users to have them removed.
If anything, it also underscores the importance of networked privacy, which is essential to adding an additional layer of control for users to prevent what another person may share or upload about them.