Facebook says using real names helps them keep the most popular social networking site in the world safer. By confirming identities, Facebook states it can help stop or minimize the risk of scams, phishing, abuse and foreign political influence.

In an effort to protect your identity from threats, Facebook is asking some users to send personal identifying information (PII) to prove users are who they say they are. This can happen for general users as well as advertisers. With obvious concerns for the safety of one’s identity, this blog details what, why and how Facebook uses this information.

What This Means for Users

For the average Facebook user, the company might ask you to provide a form of personal identification if you have lost access to your account, they detect suspicious activity or you need to confirm your Facebook name. Facebook will prompt you for verification when a concern arises on your account.

What Must I send to Facebook?

Facebook asks for PII that either includes your name and birth date or name and photograph. This could be a driver’s license, birth certificate, passport, green card or a tax identification card (view the full list here). If you do not want to send Facebook one of the items listed above for personal identification, you do have the option to send additional documentation like bank statements, credit cards, medical records, military IDs, religious documents or a social welfare card. You must provide two documents from this list, and Facebook still might require photo and birth date documentation.

Why Must I send Personal Information to Facebook?

Facebook claims they ask for personal identification to protect your identity and the overall safety of the network ecosystem. If you submit a complaint that you have been locked out of an account, for example, they want to make sure they grant access back to the right person and not an impostor. Of course, there are less serious incidents when it comes to account safety, like requesting to reset a password through email verification.

Another instance Facebook might ask you for personal identification is when you request to change your Facebook name. Whether you just got married, decided to stop or start going by a nickname or are removing your husband or wife from your joint account, Facebook could ask you to verify your identity first.

Technically Facebook users are supposed to go by their real name, even if this rule was not enforced in the past. For this process, Facebook requires the name on your account and the name on your personal identification to match.

How do I Provide my ID to Facebook?

Facebook asks users to scan or take a photo of their personal documents. Then upload them when prompted while trying to access their account.

Facebook will never ask you for your password or to provide identification in an email, or send you a password as an attachment. Emails sent from scammers posing as Facebook often include notifications about platform engagement, community standards and security warnings. Do not engage with Facebook emails if you are unsure of the content. Log directly into Facebook from a secure browser to check for any notifications regarding your account.

How does Facebook Protect the Information I Send?

Facebook claims to treat user personal information with the proper security standards. Their website says, “After you send us a copy of your ID, it’ll be encrypted and stored securely. Your ID will not be visible to anyone on Facebook.”

Facebook does ask users to allow them to “increase their efforts” by giving permission to store your encrypted personal identification for up to one year, with the hope of preventing fake accounts and imposters. To prevent Facebook from using your photo in this instance, visit your security settings.

A published Facebook statement emphasizes their concern for user privacy stating,

“We’ll use your ID or official document to confirm your identity. We’ll also use it to help detect and prevent risks such as impersonation or ID theft, which helps to keep you and our Facebook community safe. It will not be shared on your profile, in ads or with other admins of your Pages or ad accounts. After we’ve confirmed your identity, we’ll delete your ID or document within 30 days.”

Community Reaction

One Facebook user posted on the company’s forum on behalf of her father, who could not get into his account after resetting his password saying,

“Now when he goes to log in, he is being asked for a scanned document to verify his identity. Honestly, I think this is ridiculous! He is being asked to submit a picture of his birth certificate, driving license or marriage certificate. I have never been asked for anything like this in all my time on Facebook and I think it is ridiculous to ask people to do this. No wonder there is so much identity fraud!!”

This post, from 2013, is not an isolated incident and addresses the exact concerns of the Identity Theft Resource Center. When you share your PII with companies or individuals, you increase your risk of identity fraud and theft.

Some users reported after providing the required personal identification documents, they were still not granted access to their accounts. Other users are at a loss for how to help their child access his or her account without exposing them to dangers. Out of concern for privacy when creating an account, some users did not use their real birthday or name and now do not have proper personal identification documentation. Those users will be forced to change the provided information to what matches their legal records.

In response to a forum complaint, a member of Facebook’s Help Team provided the following statement:

“This usually happens when we detect suspicious activity or security threats to your account. We take your security very seriously, so before we can provide you with any information about this account or give you access to it, we need to make sure it belongs to you.”

ITRC’s Response

Before providing your PII to Facebook, or any other company, you need to assess the risk involved. By sharing your confidential legal documentation for storage on a third-party website, no matter for how long, your risk for identity theft and fraud increases. As we know too well, secured servers are still susceptible to data breaches and cyber attacks. We urge users to evaluate how important using Facebook is to them, the value it provides and the risk they are willing to take to continue using the social platform.

Need help? Watch our privacy videos or chat with an advisor today!

If you are a victim of identity theft in need of assistance, you can receive free remediation services from ITRC. Call one of our expert advisors toll-free at 888.400.5530 or LiveChat with us. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

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