Jan. 18, 2011 at 11:10 AM ET
OK, Facebook members, time to take a deep breath. We know Facebook's kind of stealthy revelation on Friday night that it would allow third party apps access to your mobile phone number and address (with your permission) probably upset you, if you were paying attention. But after users expressed their displeasure with it this weekend, the social network has decided to suspend that ability — for now.
A post on Facebook's Developer Blog by Jeff Bowen, who handles platform developer relations for the company, said that Facebook was "now making a user’s address and mobile phone number accessible as part of the User Graph object," and acknowledged that this was "sensitive information" that has to be approved by the user, using the now ubiquitous "standard permissions dialog" box that most of us see when asked to allow a third party app access to our Facebook info (see image above).
But judging by the example given on the post (see the image above), it's easy enough to overlook when the average Facebook user has become conditioned to clicking "Allow" on those permissions. (How many people do you know who always read the fine print, every time?)
While 828 people "liked" the post, the comments below it show the tide turned quickly, prompting Facebook to retreat and take back this action last night at 11:25 p.m. in a post by Douglas Purdy, director of developer relations. (Thanks for the heads-up, ReadWriteWeb!)
Over the weekend, we got some useful feedback that we could make people more clearly aware of when they are granting access to this data. We agree, and we are making changes to help ensure you only share this information when you intend to do so. We’ll be working to launch these updates as soon as possible, and will be temporarily disabling this feature until those changes are ready. We look forward to re-enabling this improved feature in the next few weeks.
Here's some of that "useful feedback":
One developer wrote: "For the developers I think its not a good idea to get these permissions in the first attempt when user going to allow the application. They should just get this permission on a page where it is needed otherwise user may not add your application as many applications are involved in spamming."
Another user commented: "Before you even consider implementing this very intrusive feature, Facebook needs to stop the scammers from making rogue applications and scamming people, my advice now to everyone on facebook will be to remove their numbers and block any application that requires these details, Facebook is going a step to far with this!!!!!!!!!!"
One user read my mind: "Users don't think when clicking allow access. You HAVE to think for them. They dont understand what it means. You are being irresponsible by doing this. And you know this."
Valleywag also alerted its readers and chastised Facebook: "Why doesn't the contact information permissions have a separate, clearly-labeled dialog box? Why make it available automatically at all? Facebook should know better than this."
As if people weren't already riled, the more the news spread over the long weekend, the more it was evident that the recent spate of rogue apps/scams (Justin Bieber hitting a girl, "Stoned to Death," etc.) has made users hyper sensitive and alert to the dangers evident in sharing such personal information, and if you haven't removed your address and mobile number yet, do it now, as strongly recommended by Naked Security. And at the very least, read EVERYTHING a third party app wants access to before you allow it into your life.