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Facebook stole every contact and phone number in your phone – here's how to undo the damage

Updated 4 years ago
Published Aug 12th, 2011 11:15AM EDT

This may come as a shock considering how seriously Facebook takes your privacy, but if you’re a Facebook user with one of Facebook’s mobile applications installed on your iPhone or one of several other smartphones, you’ve been robbed. Each and every contact stored on your phone is probably now also stored on Facebook’s servers, as was re-re-rediscovered by Facebook users this past week. Whether or not people in your contact list even have Facebook accounts, their names and phone numbers are likely now in Facebook’s possession. There is probably a clause buried deep within Facebook’s terms and conditions that makes this invasion of your privacy OK on paper, but odds are still pretty good that it’s not OK with you. Complete instructions outlining how to remove all of your contacts’ phone numbers from your Facebook account can be found below. Whether or not the data will be completely wiped from Facebook’s servers is unclear, but we’ll leave that for the lawyers to figure out.

UPDATE: A Facebook spokesperson delivered the following official statement to BGR via email: “Rumors claiming that your phone contacts are visible to everyone on Facebook are false. Our Contacts list, formerly called Phonebook, has existed for a long time. The phone numbers listed there were either added directly to Facebook and shared with you by your friends, or you have previously synced your phone contacts with Facebook. Just like on your phone, only you can see these numbers.”

  1. Visit facebook.com from a PC and log in
  2. in the top-right corner of the screen, click on Account and then Edit Friends
  3. In the menu on the left side of the screen, click on Contacts
  4. Here, you will see that each and every one of your contacts in Address Book are listed along with their phone numbers… wipe the look of shock and disgust from your face
  5. On the right side of the screen, click on the “this page” link
  6. Follow the instructions on this page — you’ll have to disable contact-sync in Facebook’s mobile app if it’s enabled — and click the Remove button

Note: Many users note that Facebook’s mobile apps now carry disclaimers that mention the fact that Facebook is taking your data. Of course Facebook does currently include a disclaimer, though the wording makes no mention of this data being stored on its servers until manually deleted by the user. Even still, this has not been the case with all versions of the app, and there are also numerous reports from users who claim to have never synchronized their contacts with Facebook’s mobile apps, yet still find all of their contact data stored on Facebook’s servers.

Thanks, Kamar

Zach Epstein
Zach Epstein Executive Editor

Zach Epstein has been the Executive Editor at BGR for more than 10 years. He manages BGR’s editorial team and ensures that best practices are adhered to. He also oversees the Ecommerce team and directs the daily flow of all content.

Zach first joined BGR in 2007 as a Staff Writer covering business, technology, and entertainment. His work has been quoted by countless top news organizations, and he was recently named one of the world's top 10 “power mobile influencers” by Forbes. Prior to BGR, Zach worked as an executive in marketing and business development with two private telcos.