'Trusted Contacts': Facebook's 'Spare Key' Feature

Dennis Faas's picture

Facebook has a new solution for people who are having trouble accessing their accounts: if you sign up for the site's 'Trusted Contacts' feature, you can log in with a little help from your friends.

The system is designed for people who've forgotten their password and is an alternative to existing security measures that involve answering questions and awaiting a confirmation email.

Using the feature you can designate between three and five people from your Facebook friends list as Trusted Contacts. If and when you are unable to access your account and trigger the feature, Facebook will send a message to these people containing a different security code for each person.

You'll then need to get in touch with these people using a method other than Facebook. The company advises picking people you can contact by phone or in person. (Source: facebook.com)

"Phone A Friend" The New Security Option

Once you've gathered together three codes, you simply type these into Facebook and you'll be able to get back into your account and reset your log-in details. Picking four or five trusted contacts will be better as it increases the chances of getting in touch with three of them without too much delay.

The idea of the system is to take advantage of the close relationships between Facebook users and their friends. While a determined hacker might be able to figure out your security question answers or access the email address where your password reset information is sent, it's unlikely they'd be able to trick three of your friends.

The feature is being gradually rolled out. You can check the "Security" section of the Facebook settings menu and look for a Trusted Contacts listing to see if you can access it yet.

System Not Foolproof Against Hacking

The feature will be most attractive for Facebook users who have their password stored in a browser and rarely need to type it in. That's the group of users most likely to forget their actual password. (Source: pcmag.com)

In theory, Trusted Contacts could also work if your account is hacked, though of course it relies on the hacker not changing or removing your listed contacts.

The system is set up to minimize security risks. Requiring codes from three separate people removes the danger of one of your contacts accessing your account without permission if, for example, you have a major personal falling out.

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