How to Block Facebook Apps With Access to Your Phone Number

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Q: Facebook is going to start sharing phone numbers and addresses with third-party app developers. How can I keep my information open to friends, but stop it from spreading to others?

A: In a move that is sure to spark another wave of privacy concerns, Facebook sent a letter to at least two United States Representatives yesterday that confirmed the social networking company will more forward with a plan to allow third-party developers to access the home addresses and phone numbers of its user base. "To be fair, some applications could use this information in positive ways: delivering purchased merchandise without having to ask repeatedly for an address, for example," we wrote about the plan when it was first announced back in January. "But, with history as our guide, we know that opening up new options for sharing information will lead to a quick and ugly backlash against Facebook."

"If you're seriously concerned about this and other changes to Facebook's privacy settings, there's only one way around them: Remove yourself from the network entirely," we wrote. But, lets be honest, you're probably not going to do that. Facebook has become as close to a necessary part of our lives as any online service -- or at least it sometimes feels that way. So, step-by-step, here's how to modify your profile settings so that friends can still see your phone number, but outside applications can't use it.

  • Visit Facebook,com, log-in to your profile and, using the drop-down menu under 'Account,' select 'Privacy Settings.'
  • On the bottom of the page, click on the 'Edit your settings' link that lives under 'Apps and Websites.'
  • A new page will load and, next to 'Apps you use,' select 'Edit Settings.'
  • The next page will list all of the outside applications that have access to your profile. You'll have to go through and restrict access to your sensitive information one at a time by using the 'Edit Settings' link to the right of each.
  • The 'Edit Settings' link will let you know whether or not an application has access to your contact information. If it does, and it's listed as 'Required,' you'll have to remove the app completely.

And if you want to remove your phone number -- and any other contact information -- from your Facebook profile entirely, follow the instructions.

  • Visit Facebook.com, log-in to your profile and click on 'Edit My Profile' under your name in the upper left-hand corner of the page.
  • Using the left-hand sidebar, navigate to 'Contact Information' and, in the appropriate fields, delete any information that you want to keep off of your profile, including your phone number.
  • Click 'Save Changes.'

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Nicholas Jackson is a former associate editor at The Atlantic.

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