Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Privacy: Unlist yourself from Truecaller

If you think the world of smartphones is any safer to tread without care, I would like to remind you the fact that terms like "internet never forgets" and "world wild web" apply to the internet whether you use it from a personal computer or a smartphone.

Truecaller is a mobile app available on google play, iOS and several other market places that uses a crowd sourced telephone directory to tell you the names of people who call you even if they are not in your phonebook. The company claims to 'partly' gather its data from public sources and partly 'crowdsources' it. The latter is, however, incorrect to the extent of being misguiding at best and fraudulent at worst.

Upon investigating the app and its modus operandi, it is obviously and blatantly clear that the app harvests the data (names, numbers and other information; all linked) from the phonebooks of the users who have installed the application. I verified this with a simple trick. I had a friend install the app, and then a second person (without the app installed - infact without a smartphone) called a third phone which already had the app installed to see what information the app would display. The name on the third phone's truecaller app appeared exactly with the company prefix and nickname that was saved as on the first person's phone. This clearly showed that the app had uploaded his complete phonebook to its database under the pretext of the "necessary" permissions it requires to install the app and now displays the phone numbers and names of all his contacts to anyone in the world who has the app installed even though all those people never opted for such. This is clearly a breach of privacy.

To further verify this, please see this blog post on the same matter and this Quora thread that shows how many people this fact has made unhappy.

Are you on their database? If any one of the hundreds of your contacts including your friends, colleagues or the cable guy uses Truecaller to avail their database, your number has been harvested onto it via their phonebook.

Now the question is how to get yourself rid of this privacy issue and remove yourself from the Truecaller data base in order to keep your information safe including telling your name to simply anyone who has your number? To unlist yourself, the Truecaller website provides an unlist option. You can go to their unlist page and remove your number from their database by entering your number in the following format: +923001234567

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