One of the main ways Facebook gathered data in its early days was by encouraging new users to share their contacts with the platform. This resulted in many people having their phone numbers and email addresses shared with the tech giant, even if they never signed up to use Facebook or its other services.
For many years, there was no easy way for people to determine whether their data had been harvested in this way and to delete any phone numbers or email addresses that had been collected without their consent. But earlier this year, Facebook's parent company Meta quietly rolled out a tool that lets you check whether Facebook, Instagram, or Messenger has a copy of your phone number or email address, delete this information from Meta's “address book database,” and block it from being uploaded to this database by a person or company in the future.
When you delete and block an address or phone number, Meta keeps a copy of the data in its “block list.” However, Meta says the data will no longer be used to see if it's associated with an active Facebook, Instagram, or Facebook account, to make contact suggestions on these platforms, to invite non-users to join these platforms, and to “conduct business intelligence and analytics.”
You can access this Meta data deletion tool by clicking or tapping here.
Then follow these steps to delete and block your data from Meta's address book database:
1. Select whether you want to search for a mobile number, landline number, or email address and click or tap “Next.”
2. Enter the phone number or email address that you want to search for.
3. Select the platforms that you want to search (“Facebook and Messenger,” “Instagram,” or both) and click or tap “Next.”
4. Check your email or messages to get the confirmation code that Meta sent to the phone number or email address that you entered.
5. Enter this confirmation code in Meta's data deletion tool and click or tap “Next.”
6a. If Meta finds the phone number or email address in its address book database, click or tap “Confirm” to delete and block it.
6b. If Meta doesn't find the phone number or email address that you entered, Meta will tell you that this data hasn't been uploaded through someone's address book.
7. Repeat steps 1-6 for all the phone numbers and email addresses that you want to delete and block from Meta's address book database.
That's it. All the phone numbers and email addresses you entered should now be deleted and blocked from Meta's address book database.
If you're looking for additional ways to prevent your email address and phone number from being scooped up by the tech giants, consider using burner ? phone numbers and ? burner email addresses. They provide most of the functionality of regular phone numbers and email addresses but keep your real number or email hidden.