Can you search Facebook by phone number? The answer: Sort of. While finding someone’s Facebook profile by using a phone number used to be easy, the social media site cracked down on the practice last year. But it’s not impossible.
Facebook search by phone number: A controversial function
Once upon a time, if you looked for a friend on Facebook and struck out with just a name search, you could plug in their phone number and find their profile that way. Someone texted you from a number you didn’t recognize? You could type the number into Facebook to see if you hit pay dirt. This was also a helpful function if you were searching for someone with a common name.
But in 2018, Facebook rolled back the functionality, citing privacy concerns and nixing the ability to search for a user by phone number. Malicious actors, Facebook said, “abused these features to scrape public profile information.”
How to use Facebook search by phone number
Although Facebook officially discontinued this functionality, it’s still possible to find a Facebook user by phone number, if a phone number is part of that person’s profile. And it might be, since the social media site now offers two-factor authentication, and users must authenticate their accounts either via text message codes from a mobile phone or through login codes from a third-party app like Google Authenticator and Duo Security. If users opt for text messages, their phone number is stored in their account settings.
Even if users make their phone number private (so people can’t view it as part of their profile), the number is still stored in their Facebook settings. And by default, Facebook privacy settings allow “Everyone” to look you up using the phone number you provided. (Users who are concerned about this can change that setting to “Only Me.”)
That said, you can’t put someone’s phone number in the search bar to find their Facebook profile. Instead, when you upload contact information from your mobile phone to your Facebook app, the app can match your contacts to Facebook profiles using email addresses and phone numbers. In other words, you’d need to list a person in your phone as a contact before you could find them on Facebook.
Additionally, for this around-the-corner look-up function to work, someone would need to have a phone number in their Facebook profile and have a privacy setting that allowed you to locate them using it. And, of course, they’d need to be a Facebook user.
Options other than Facebook’s phone number search
If looking up someone on Facebook using your mobile contacts seems unwieldy, you have other choices:
- Subscribe to a people search service, which may include last known phone numbers, along with a wide range of additional information like social media accounts and email addresses that are associated with the number.
- Use a trusted reverse phone lookup service to try and determine if a caller is a friend or a telemarketer. These services can frequently clue you into a caller’s location, whether they’re calling from a landline or mobile phone, and whether there’s other information attached to the phone number, such as criminal records or whether it’s been flagged by others as a possible robocaller.
The bottom line
Right now, people may be able to locate Facebook users by phone number. But privacy blocks could make this more difficult, and the current process—uploading contacts from your mobile phone—isn’t as straightforward as the old method of searching by phone number directly.
If searching by phone number is something you need to do, using a people search service may help. Plus, it casts a wider net than just Facebook users and may reveal other information as well.