Why I refuse to use Plaxo
Over the past several months, various people have sent me requests to provide contact information via Plaxo, a company that appears, on the face, to be offering a free address book that allows others to update their own information. I believe it integrates with Outlook, etc, so people can more easily make use of the address book. It also allows you to, in essence, update anyone’s address book who happens to have you in it. Update one place, it updates it in many. 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.
This doesn’t mean that I’m opposed to online address books, quite the contrary. Broadvox Direct has one that’s real useful with their VoIP phone service. Broadvox already has about half the information anyway — they keep records of who I call and whom calls me for billing purposes. 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 Broadvox Direct, 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.