Why I Still Refuse to use Plaxo
In January, I wrote a blog entry about why I refuse to use Plaxo. There’s one person in particular who keeps trying to get me to “sign up” and use Plaxo. Sorry, I still won’t do it.
Plaxo is a company that appears, on the face, to be offering a free address book that allows others to update their own information. The theory goes, if all your friends use Plaxo, every time you update your information on Plaxo, all your friends will get their information updated.
The first one of these I got, I thought “hey, that’s a novel concept.” I almost filled it out, but then my security alert went off in my head and got the sneaking suspicion that I shouldn’t fill one out.
Plaxo smells of many a failed dot.com business plan where you build an audience while you burn through investor financing and hope some will pay for the service. As near as I can tell, the only “paid” service they offer at this time is: VIP support for $20/year. Hardly seems like that’s going to pay the bills. They claim to be developing other services, of course, but so did lots of failed dot.com business.
Meanwhile, when Plaxo eventually fails, they sell you and your friends personal data for pennies on the dollar. While their privacy concerns page goes to great lengths to dissuade fears of exactly that kind of scenario, I’m just not buying it.
This doesn’t mean that I’m opposed to online address books, quite the contrary. Many of the VoIP services that I use (such as Broadvox Direct) have them. VoIP companies already have about half the information anyway — they keep records of who I call and whom calls me for billing purposes. If they provide an online address book, they are potentially getting some additional information like mailing address, email address, and name — assuming I enter all that information in. The major difference is: with these kinds of companies, there’s an implied expectation of privacy (if not mandated by law) — they are a phone company, albeit not in the same way that Qwest or Verizon is a phone company. There are laws in place to protect the privacy of phone records and phone calls. Furthermore, I am paying them to provide me with a service. While this isn’t a guarante they won’t make use of the data without my consent, at least I have some recourse if they do — I can take my business elsewhere.
Another reason I don’t like this service: these kinds of services take away the more “personal touch” of contacting all your friends and reestablishing where you are and how to reach you. Given that I am not all that great at connecting with my friends anyway, I don’t want to take away a reason I might have to contact my friends.