Until recently you could search Facebook for a phone number or email address and find the Facebook account associated with it. That’s not true anymore.
This little trick was great when someone gave you their number at a party and you forgot their name, or when you needed to sort through hundreds of John Smiths to find the one you play softball with on Wednesdays. So why would Facebook remove something so mind bogglingly useful?
Because it turns out scammers also appreciated this little life hack. Here’s Rhett Jones, writing for Gizmodo:
…imagine you’re a hacker who bought a huge database of phone numbers on the dark web. Those numbers might have some use on their own, but they become way more useful for breaking into individual systems or committing fraud if you can attach more data to them. Facebook is saying that this kind of malicious actor would regularly take one of those numbers and use the platform to hunt down all publicly available data on its owner. This process, of course, could be automated and reap huge rewards with little effort. Suddenly, the hacker might have a user’s number, photos, marriage status, email address, birthday, location, pet names, and more—an excellent toolkit to do some damage.
Hackers ruin everything, once again. What are us non-hackers supposed to do now?
Well there are still tools out there for reverse looking up a phone number, including Google and the old-fashioned White Pages. None are quite as useful as Facebook, alas. Guess you’ll just have to text that number—maybe “new phone who dis” will get you a name? (Disclaimer: the author of this post has been married for a decade and works for a tech tutorial site, do not under any circumstances take modern dating advice from him.)