The PhoneBoy Blog

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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.

Plaxo has a privacy policy that says they won’t share your information with others that you don’t specify. Riiiiight. Like I’m going to trust a company that I have no paid business relationship with to hold my personal information in confidence when, as near as I can tell, they don’t have a fully baked business plan. It smells of many a failed business plan where you build an audience while you burn through investor financing and hope some will pay for the service. Meanwhile, when they eventually fail, they sell you and your friends personal data for pennies on the dollar. No thanks. What’s even sadder is that the people I’ve gotten these plaxo notices for are people in the damned network security industry. These are people who are supposed to be paranoid/skeptical by nature.

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.


#Cybersecurity Evangelist, Podcaster, #noagenda Producer, Frequenter of shiny metal tubes, Expressor of personal opinions, and of course, a coffee achiever.