Mar 4, 2019

Report: Facebook ties names to authentication phone numbers

Photo: Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Facebook is facing a new wave of criticism for letting users identify individuals by phone number even when they only gave Facebook the number for the purpose of two-factor authentication.

Why it matters: Critics are saying a measure that users take in order to protect their security is instead, in Facebook's hands, exposing their privacy.


  • Two-factor authentication (2FA) is a security measure that helps protect access to user accounts by tying that access not only to a password, but also to a secondary device — often a phone.
  • Reports last year showed that Facebook was already targeting ads based on phone numbers users shared for two-factor authentication.
  • A Twitter thread detailing the latest issue went viral on Sunday.
  • Last year, Facebook blocked users from searching directly for profiles by typing in phone numbers. But Facebook will still link phone numbers and profiles under other circumstances, including when you upload an address book to help Facebook find your friends, users say.
  • Facebook allows you to change a default setting in order to hide your phone number, but even when you do, users have reported that some kinds of searches based on the phone number will still come up with your name.
  • Last year, Facebook began offering alternatives to phone-number based 2FA and no longer requires a phone number.

What they're saying:

  • A Facebook spokesman said in a statement: "The 'Who can look me up?' settings are not new and are not specific to two-factor authentication. ... Today, the 'Who can look me up?' settings control how your phone number or email address can be used to look you up in other ways, such as when someone uploads your contact info to Facebook from their mobile phone. We appreciate the feedback we've received about these settings and will take it into account.”
  • New York Times columnist Zeynep Tufekci said on Twitter: "For years I urged dissidents at risk to use 2FA on Facebook. They were afraid of this. @Facebook doesn't care about their safety."

Go deeper

U.S. coronavirus updates: Infections number tops 140,000

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The novel coronavirus has now infected over 142,000 people in the U.S. — more than any other country in the world, per Johns Hopkins data.

The big picture: COVID-19 had killed over 2,400 people in the U.S. by Sunday night. That's far fewer than in Italy, where over 10,000 people have died — accounting for a third of the global death toll. The number of people who've recovered from the virus in the U.S. exceeded 2,600 Sunday evening.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 6 mins ago - Health

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 9 p.m. ET: 721,584 — Total deaths: 33,958 — Total recoveries: 149,122.
  2. U.S.: Leads the world in cases. Total confirmed cases as of 9 p.m. ET: 142,106 — Total deaths: 2,479 — Total recoveries: 2,686.
  3. Federal government latest: President Trump says his administration will extend its "15 Days to Slow the Spread" guidelines until April 30.
  4. Public health updates: Fauci says 100,000 to 200,000 Americans could die from virus.
  5. State updates: Louisiana governor says state is on track to exceed ventilator capacity by end of this week — Cuomo says Trump's mandatory quarantine comments "panicked" some people into fleeing New York
  6. World updates: Italy on Sunday reports 756 new deaths, bringing its total 10,779. Spain reports almost 840 dead, another new daily record that bring its total to over 6,500.
  7. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.

World coronavirus updates: Cases surge past 720,000

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens and confirmed plus presumptive cases from the CDC

There are now more than 720,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus around the world, according to data from Johns Hopkins. The virus has now killed more than 33,000 people — with Italy alone reporting over 10,000 deaths.

The big picture: Governments around the world have stepped up public health and economic measures to stop the spread of the virus and soften the financial impact. In the U.S., now the site of the largest outbreak in the world, President Trump said Sunday that his administration will extend its "15 Days to Slow the Spread" guidelines until April 30.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 1 hour ago - Health