Lost Your Facebook Password? Get Back In with a Little Help from Your Friends

Facebook's Trusted Contacts feature lets you specify friends who can participate in the password-recovery process.

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There’s no one ideal way for a website to let you recover a lost password — one which will always let you get back in without inordinate hassle, but which will never allow an imposter to compromise your account. So sites typically provide multiple recovery methods. And after a period of testing, Facebook is formally announcing a new one today called Trusted Contacts.

Trusted Contacts is an updated version of an existing feature called Trusted Friends, which lets you specify friends on Facebook who can help you get back into your account. Using the service’s security settings, you name three to five friends — the kind, Facebook says, who you’d entrust with a copy of your house key. Then, if you ever get shut out of your account, you can contact all the friends you chose. Facebook will give each of them a unique code to relay to you; if you enter all the codes, you can restore access to your account.

As Facebook’s blog post on the news notes, this approach isn’t absolutely free of security concerns: someone could conceivably figure out who your Trusted Contacts are, impersonate you and initiate the recovery process. For that reason, the company encourages members who take advantage of the feature to contact their pals in person or on the phone rather than by e-mail or chat.

I wonder what percentage of folks who get locked out will use this option to get back in — and whether other services will copy the idea?