‘Trusted Contacts’ lets users turn to friends for help logging into Facebook

Facebook today announced “Trusted Contacts,” an update to its “Trusted Friends” security feature that sends access codes to a few of a user’s close friends in order to help the person regain access to their account when needed.

Users will now be able to designate their Trusted Contacts in advance and change them if necessary through the Security Settings dashboard. Previously, users only encountered this feature when they were having trouble with their account. This meant that many users were unfamiliar with it. By making Trusted Contacts part of a user’s main settings, more people might understand what it is before they have a problem — or before they are called upon as a Trusted Contact themselves. This will help users be able to use the feature more effectively.

Facebook says it has also improved the flow for people who are their friend’s Trusted Contacts, giving them more information throughout the process of helping someone get back into the account. They’ll also be notified when they are selected, another way to help people understand the feature in advance. Some users are often wary of unfamiliar Facebook features, suspecting they might be part of a scam. We’ve heard from users who didn’t initially trust Facebook’s Offers or Gifts products because they thought they were third-party spam. Something like Trusted Friends with access codes to let another user log into their account might have seemed too suspicious to some. The changes today could help avoid that.

Starting today, users can set up their Trusted Contacts by visiting their Security Settings and choosing three to five friends to help them when they need it. Facebook recommends choosing friends that a user would be comfortable giving a spare key to their house. It’s also important to choose people that can be reached outside of Facebook messages, since a locked out user won’t be able to contact them this way.

When a user is unable to log into their account and can’t use the email password recovery system, they can then have an access code sent to these Trusted Contacts, who then share the code with them in person, on the phone or another trusted means of communication. Facebook warns against using email, chat or text, which can be easier for someone trying to impersonate a user and take over their account. When the user gets the access codes from three different friends, they can then put these into Facebook and recover their account.

Facebook says it offers this instead of giving users long forms to fill out or asking security questions like “What street did you grow up on?” which users often forget or which could be easily known by someone besides the user.