Arg! Facebook just got rid of a really convenient way to search for friends

In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica data harvesting scandal and release of a disturbing Facebook memo, Facebook has been under pressure to make some big changes when it comes to user privacy. Amid the controversy surrounding the #DeleteFacebook trend, CEO Mark Zuckerberg has promised to do better in the future. In fact, some changes are already underway: Facebook just got rid of a convenient way to search for friends.

The social media giant is overhauling their user privacy policies, and one of the things they’ll be doing is changing how they handle user data. That’s where the friend search feature comes in. In an attempt to improve their privacy policy, Facebook has removed the ability to find other Facebook users by searching for their phone number.

In the past, Facebook users were able to look up other users with their phone number instead of their name.

It was a feature a lot of people found super helpful because it cut down on search results, especially if the name was a common one that a lot of people have (as Tech Radar pointed out, that search feature made up “7% of all searches in Bangladesh,” a country where many people share the same name).

It’s easy to feel frustrated about the loss of this feature: it was simple and effective, and it’s definitely disappointing to see it go. But the company has some legitimate reasons for making this change. In a blog post, Facebook explained that “malicious actors have also abused these features to scrape public profile information by submitting phone numbers or email addresses they already have through search and account recovery.” The company went on to say that this feature has probably had some pretty negative effects we haven’t even realized:

“Given the scale and sophistication of the activity we’ve seen, we believe most people on Facebook could have had their public profile scraped in this way. So we have now disabled this feature. We’re also making changes to account recovery to reduce the risk of scraping as well.”

Many are furious at this admission that Facebook’s popular search feature has led to user profiles being scraped without anyone’s knowledge:


Others have pointed out that when making a public profile on Facebook and giving them your number, you open yourself up to this kind of thing:

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This isn’t the only change the company is making. Facebook is also going to limit the data available to third-party apps by tightening up the review process for apps that request access to your photos and posts. Apps will no longer be able to request access to data like marital status, religious views, education, and work history. Facebook will also delete logs of call and text history that are older than one year.

As frustrating as it is to not be able to use that Facebook search feature anymore, it may be for the greater good (even if we hate to admit it). After all, would you rather be able to find someone really quickly online, or have your privacy be kept intact? Yeah…it seems to be a necessary evil.

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