On Thursday, TechCrunch reported that phone numbers associated with millions of Facebook accounts had been exposed after being stored in an unprotected server. In response to reports, a Facebook spokesperson confirmed that to the company's knowledge, no one's account has been compromised. Still, if you'd like to remove your phone number from Facebook altogether, the platform makes it pretty simple.
As TechCrunch reported, the database of Facebook account information was found on a publicly-accessible online server. Each entry in the database listed a Facebook ID and the phone number affiliated with that Facebook ID, according to the tech news outlet. It added that someone's Facebook ID, which is a long, individualized number affiliated with a particular Facebook account, can be easily used to find their username.
As Fast Company explained, the contents of the database are called "scraped information," and were collected from Facebook before the company prohibited developers from accessing people's phone numbers in 2018. In other words, these phone numbers were public information when they were initially scraped. Fast Company pointed out that, for this reason, it's incorrect to say Facebook was hacked.
“This dataset is old and appears to have information obtained before we made changes last year to remove people’s ability to find others using their phone numbers. The dataset has been taken down and we have seen no evidence that Facebook accounts were compromised," a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement provided to Bustle. "The underlying issue was addressed as part of a Newsroom post on April 4th 2018 by Facebook’s Chief Technology Officer. Our review of this data set showed a large number of duplicates, we actually believe the number of accounts in the set is about 220 million.”
Nonetheless, the reports might make you think twice about what type of information you share with any social media platform. If you want to disconnect your phone number from Facebook in particular, it involves just a few simple steps on either your computer or mobile device.
According to Facebook's own guidelines, if you're on a computer, you should use the main Facebook drop down menu, which is shaped like a tiny carrot, to access Settings. Once you're in Settings, click "mobile" after it appears in the sidebar on the left side of your screen, Facebook says. Then when you're in this window, you should see your phone number pop up if it's affiliated with your account. If it's there, simply click "remove," which will bring up a confirmation screen. You then have to hit "remove phone" to complete the deletion process, Facebook indicates.
If you're on a mobile device, CNET reports that the phone number removal process is pretty similar. The outlet says you first need to open your Facebook app and select "settings & privacy" from the main menu. Then, CNET says, tap on "settings" followed by "personal information," which will bring up a screen that shows your contact information. Simply click "remove" in the phone number section, and then confirm this process by selecting "remove phone" after you receive a Facebook password prompt, CNET indicates. You should receive a confirmation email after making this change, the outlet says.
Overall, it's always important to consider what personal information you provide to a social media platform and understand how it's being used. Now could be a good time to take a closer look at those accounts and decide what privacy and profile settings make most sense for you.