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Facebook opens up user phone numbers, emails to advertisers

updated 07:14 pm EDT, Thu August 30, 2012

Advertiser tool improvement in limited trials, opening up soon

Facebook has announced plans to allow external marketers to mine new customers from the social network using personal information, such as phone numbers, email addresses, Facebook users' unique UID code, and other identifying characteristics. The targeting option will be available to advertisers next week. Facebook says advertisers will have to seek their customers' permission to use the data for marketing purposes before they proceed.

Using Facebook's "Power Editor" tool for advertisers, some users had access to a "custom audiences" tab earlier today. The tab allowed selection of which specific type of information they are targeting, and then upload a comma separated value (CSV) spreadsheet with identifying information. Both sets of data are allegedly asked before matching, which if properly executed, allows some modicum of data security preventing unauthorized data mining.

None of the data being searched is unjustly acquired by Facebook-- the user would have had to provide the searchable data to the network by choice.

Facebook's prior advertising methods have come under fire. A settlement against the "sponsored stories" feature is awaiting more information to the judge. Sponsored stories were advertisements that appeared on a user's Facebook page when a friend "likes" an advertiser, including the friend's name and photograph. The suit claims that the paid post uses user's images and names to advertise products without compensation for advertising purposes in violation of California law. Additionally, startup company Limited Run has deleted its Facebook page and will cease paying for ads, claiming that the majority of the clicks the company was receiving were driven not by real people but by automated programs.

by MacNN Staff



  1. exca1ibur

    Mac Elite

    Joined: 10-06-00

    and so it begins...

  1. bigmig

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 01-29-04

    And that's why I never reveal my phone number to companies like Facebook and Google...

  1. daqman

    Junior Member

    Joined: 09-15-00

    These companies make their money from advertising. It's a short step from there to data mining customer's personal data. If you're ok with that fine, I'm not. That's why I don't have accounts with Google of Facebook, I don't trust them.

  1. apostle

    Junior Member

    Joined: 04-16-08

    I don't have a Facebook account but as I understand it, a valid email address and phone number are required to create an account. And that Facebook will check both to confirm the validity of each. Correct me if I'm wrong about that.

    As I read it (the article), Marketers will have free access to a users email address and phone number, both of which are required to create a Facebook account. The Marketer must then ask the Facebook member for permission to use the email address and phone number for "marketing purposes" (spam?).

    If the Facebook user declines to grant permission, the Marketer can then sell that persons email address and phone number to say, a telemarketing firm.


  1. Spheric Harlot

    Clinically Insane

    Joined: 11-07-99

    Countdown to getting ripped a new one in a German court for privacy law violations in 3...2...

  1. Kees

    Junior Member

    Joined: 09-15-01

    ok, so, the advertising companies get my phone number without my consent, but they then have to ask (call me???) to actually use that number?
    Sounds like a bulletproof concept...

    thx for reminding me why I don't do Facebook. Guess I'm more of a face to face social kinda guy...

  1. jreades

    Junior Member

    Joined: 02-02-99

    I suppose they might have changed the rules about new sign-ups, but I'd never in a million years have given Facebook my phone number. And if they were going to *insist* on that by checking... never in a billion. I also gave them a discardable address on the basis that they'd eventually either sell it to someone or accidentally leak it to someone. Guess my mild paranoia was worth it, because like one of the other people here I can't *imagine* how this cleaning process could possibly be abused by companies.

    Actually, now that I think about it, FB does always try to get me to supply a phone number 'just in case' I'm locked out of my account. Interesting to see that they'd considering using that now as part of their marketing programme. I can't help wondering when the next class action suit is header their way.

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