San Francisco Meta encourages users of the services Facebook, Instagram and Messenger to share all contacts with the group, including phone numbers and email addresses. As a result, the social media provider also collects sensitive data from people who do not use the service themselves.
“We process this information even if you are not a user of Facebook, Messenger or Instagram,” says Meta. However, it is now possible to search for this data and have it deleted.
Without any major public announcement, the company introduced a tool for removing the data, according to research by the “Insider” portal, apparently as early as May. A Handelsblatt request from Meta on the subject initially went unanswered.
Deleting data is easy – once you know how. The most important information at a glance.
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Step 1: How to check if Meta has your contact details
First go to the Facebook blocking tool. You can find it on this website: www.facebook.com/contacts/removal
This will take you to a website where you can search for your contact information. This includes your cell phone number, your landline phone number and your e-mail address. It is not possible to search for all three pieces of information at once, so three passes are necessary.
The group points out that it takes two steps when looking for an extinguisher. First, the data is deleted from the company’s address book database. The data is then included in a block list so that nobody can upload the data in the future.
Step 2: Enter number or email address for verification
A phone number or email address can then be sent to Meta for verification. In doing so, the Group uses one of three measures to verify that the data entered belongs to you.
If you enter a cell phone number, Meta will send you a code via SMS to confirm. Enter a landline phone number and you will receive a call where a voice computer will announce a code to you. If you have an e-mail address, you will receive the code by e-mail.
In this step, you can directly select several products to search for. Facebook and Messenger as well as Instagram can also be selected at the same time.
Step 3: Confirm delete and block
If Meta has found the entered contact data in the company databases, you will receive a confirmation. If the data is to be deleted and blocked, you only have to confirm this in a final step. You will then receive a confirmation message.
However, it is unclear whether the data has actually been deleted. Meta itself writes that even after a deletion request, contact information can still be stored: “In certain cases, we need to keep your contact information longer, including after you ask us to delete it.”
The social media group describes very roughly in which cases the data will continue to be stored. This includes “legal reasons, for example, in response to a legal request or to comply with applicable law, regulatory matters or litigation, to prevent harm, or for security, safety and integrity purposes.”
The last wording in particular is so broad that Meta could probably argue in many cases that cell phone numbers and other sensitive data remain stored despite requests for deletion.
What about WhatsApp?
The messenger service WhatsApp also belongs to the meta group. This also collects contact details and in particular mobile phone numbers. WhatsApp is even severely restricted in terms of functionality if users do not agree to share their entire address book with the group.
So far, however, there does not seem to be any comparable possibility from the meta group to also have contact data collected via WhatsApp deleted. A Handelsblatt request from Meta initially went unanswered.
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