Personal phone numbers made public on Facebook…Crazy!

While browsing Facebook the other day, I came across an open group that shocked me.  The group’s creator had lost his mobile phone and needed to populate his new phone with numbers.  So the group was an attempt to ask his mates for their mobile numbers.

photo by IamSAM

The group was available for anyone to browse or join.  When I saw the title of the group and its open status, I thought he must be having a laugh if anyone replies.  Then I guessed it may be a joke group, set up to tempt people into clicking it.

Unfortunately, I was wrong.  Despite being a totally public group, this guy’s phone number was listed in the description of the group, while 20 or so friends of his had happily posted their mobile numbers for anyone to view.

I couldn’t believe that this was taking place on an OPEN group!  So when I next went on Facebook, I decided to find the group again and let him know what was going on.

I thought this find was scary enough…

But here’s the even scarier part.  I didn’t find this guy’s group when I searched for it.  The reason why?  Because there are hundreds of public groups all asking for their friend’s phone numbers!  And most people are happy to oblige.  Huge numbers of personal phone numbers on open groups, available for all to see.

I was amazed at how few of the groups were closed to general viewers and browsers.

Does anyone even realise that this is happening in the open?  I mean, it’s bad enough with so many public Facebook profiles containing personal content (and even photos they surely wouldn’t want the public viewing) available for anyone to see.  But it’s even worse to see that people can recreate hundreds of people’s phone lists.  It disturbed me, anyway.

What’s going on?  Are these users unaware of this?  Or is privacy a thing of the past?  Am I worrying about nothing?  What are your thoughts?

[UPDATE: Here is some statistical and analytical insight into personal details and privacy issues surrounding social networking sites…lots of people seem to keep their profiles open.


  1. I have seen this happening a lot, and it has been going on a long time.

    However, most of the groups I have seen (Norwegian groups) seem to be meant more as jokes. The descriptions are usually along the line of “I lost my phone. My number is ########. Leave your number here also ;)”

    I really don’t think most people mind “everyone” having access to their phone number, and I think those who post their numbers in such groups knows that everyone can see it. After all, everyones number is only a mouseclick away on the internet anyway…

  2. You’re right, Christian, lots of numbers are easy to get hold of over the net. But this still leaves me feeling uncomfortable that some people aren’t aware that they’re publishing their number for all to see.

    Maybe some of the groups are jokes, but it’s a pretty lame joke if it’s being done hundreds (if not thousands) of times over. And the users generally add the number and nothing else, so it’s not even got a tongue-in-cheek element to it.

    Perhaps the only way I’ll find out what people think is if I call or text them and ask directly…

    …and then get arrested for stalking them. 😉

  3. Yes, this is done quite often on Facebook, and I’ve also been careful with it. I don’t even have my number on on my profile, so I’m hardly going to give it out to the masses. If I get invited to one of these groups, I just send a message to the creator with my number (if I want them to have it, obviously!)

  4. I see these groups all the time. It’s become the preferred way to gather phone numbers if someone loses or breaks a phone. As for making the groups open, I don’t think many people think there would be any interest in the numbers – it just doesn’t enter into their thoughts.

  5. @Mark, that’s exactly what I’ve done in the past. I’ve also been asked to post my number on someone’s wall…again, I used a personal message instead. I’m glad I’m not the only person who’s being cautious about this.

    @Elisabeth, I find that scary, but I think you’re absolutely right. And keeping up with messages, updates, apps, and all the other time consuming features on Facebook, I don’t expect people pay too much attention to what’s public and what’s private.

  6. …and then let the whole game begin again. “I’ve got a new number. It’s XXXXXXXXXXX, please put down yours.”


  7. People these days think that “sharing their personal phone numbers” is one of the ways to getting connected to their friends. But of course, these people are highly likely not exposed to the dangers of having sooo many people knowing their phone numbers. Or they think that they are very safe, and that the world is full of “good people”.

  8. This is just a matter of stupidity! I understand why people do it, because they want numbers, but for goodness’ sake make the group private! I have just got a new phone so want my friends numbers (as my old one is broken so cant import my address book). I hate these groups, but it seemed the easiest thing to do – i created a PRIVATE group, DISABLED posting, discussion and the wall, and asked people send me a text message with their name in or PM me.

    People just dont know how to use Facebook… stupidity and ignorance is the problem! They don’t realise that creating an open group means anyone can view their numbers. Their own stupid fault if anything happens!

  9. Hi Asher, I agree that many users don’t seem to care much about the privacy in this respect, yet it goes further than that. The settings don’t always do what you’d imagine and not everything is obvious to relative newbies.

    So while you’ll always get some crazy peeps who don’t care what they’re doing, I’m sure many would be gutted if they knew what was happening.

    Put it this way…I know people who have most privacy settings cranked up, yet they create an open group advertising their new number, requesting their mates numbers. It’s not the behaviour of someone who usually wants privacy. I agree it’s ignorant and they should be more careful, but I don’t think it’s through plain stupidity.

  10. By uploading a photo to Facebook, they automatically assume the right to use and even profit from your photos.

    So I suppose uploading your telephone number to Facebook isn’t that bad seeing as they own most of you and your details anyway.

    Facebook will take over the world.


  11. If people add their numbers to these lists, they are obviously okay with randomers txting/phoning them. And if they are innocent enough to think that public groups are private, yet they can view them then they should not be trusted with the internet to start with… shame on their carers!

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