Frequent contributor Bennett Haselton writes with some strong cautions on a Facebook "feature" that lets you search for random phone numbers and find the accounts of users who have registered that number on their Facebook profile.This has privacy implications that are more serious than searching by email address.

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None of those matches had any friends in common with the account we were searching from; as far as I can tell, anybody could enter any phone number into Facebook's search box and find the account associated with it, if there is one. (I repeatedly contacted Facebook explaining why I think this is a problem, but they haven't responded.) I'm not talking about the ability to find the account associated with a phone number — I think relatively few people have a legitimate need to send text messages from a truly anonymous phone number, and if they do, it's their own fault if they're dumb enough to put that number on their Facebook profile.

And it wouldn't be a practical way to unmask the phone number associated with a particular account, either — even if you knew the person's area code, and narrowed down the list of possible exchange numbers following the area code, you'd still have to try tens of thousands of possibilities.

A few weeks ago a friend of mine said she was getting harassing text messages from a particular phone number, which she didn't recognize and which didn't appear in any of her own records.

On a whim, I suggested entering the number into the Facebook search box, whereupon we found the guy's profile (even though he had no friends in common with the account we were logged in under), realized who he was, and ratted the thirty-something out to his Mom.

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Rather, the problem is that you could use this technique to build up a database of phone numbers and associated accounts without targeting any specific phone number or account.