Truecaller Makes a Big Privacy Pitch as Focus on Instant Messaging Intensifies
You probably haven't realised this all along, but Truecaller wears many hats. It remains one of of the most important apps in the Apple iOS and the Google Android ecosystem, and perhaps is among the first set of critical apps that most people (including yours truly) install on a new phone. It is a vital tool for caller-identification and call-blocking, something that is extremely essential in this day and age when spam calls and messages are a scourge. It is a payments app. You can use this to send flash-messages to friends. It can be the default call dialler on your phone. It can be your default messaging inbox. You can even use it to record phone calls. Pretty soon, it could become your default destination for group messages too—as the focus on becoming a viable messaging platform for users to switch to, becomes clear. Which is why it is all the more crucial that Truecaller is taking the privacy aspects very seriously.
Truecaller’s privacy pitch is a four pronged implementation, which shares the control with users as well as takes certain responsibility on their shoulders. At a time when most of us are wary about what is happening with our data and who is selling our information to third parties, Truecaller is taking pains to reassure users that the company does not sell any user data. “We do not sell our users’ names or phone numbers to third parties because it is against our ethics,” they say. However, Truecaller does say that they have a trusted list of advertising partners who they work with for in-app advertisements, which keep the app free-to-use for users who may not sign up for the Premium subscription. Truecaller also has a list of partners along with their individual privacy policies available for access via the app—the list includes Google, Facebook, Twitter and InMobi, among others. Truecaller confirms to News18 that they don't share any user details at all with any advertising partners, and instead only help the advertisers target users based on their data. At no point does an advertising partner doesn't actually get access to the information of any Truecaller user. Surely, this is quite rare in these times when user data is sold at the altar of advertising, by most apps that you use on your smartphone.
Incidentally, you can also opt out of sending data that may be used to serve relevant in-app advertisements, special deals or promotional offers. These options can be found in Truecaller -> Settings -> Privacy Center -> Control How Ads Appear to Me -> Disable the options on the next page.
Then there is the whole issue of what information other Truecaller users can see about you. First up, you have full control over what information you want to add to your Truecaller profile. There are no mandatory fields, except your phone number (of course), but the rest of the information is optional. Then you can head to Settings -> Privacy Center -> Who can get my contact details -> Requests Approved by me. Once you have selected this, Truecaller users who want to get your contact information, for instance, will have to send in a request which you may or may not decide to accept. The other option here is that all Truecaller users can access your information, but chances are you wouldn’t want that. There are simple ways of deactivating your Truecaller account if you don’t want to use it anymore, and if you want your existence to be completely purged from the Truecaller platform so that no one can find a trace of your existence, there is the option to unlist your number as well.
One of the major issues with certain apps these days is that unless you give a blanket approval for permissions to access various aspects of your phone’s features and data, they don’t work. Why does a popular payments app require access to my photos gallery, for instance? This is where Truecaller makes things simpler. On my iPhone for instance, I have not given Truecaller access to the camera, Siri and background app refresh—just my contacts and cellular data for the app to work as desired.
Truecaller is taking its next big step towards becoming a viable messaging app alternative to some of the more common instant messaging apps these days. The Group Chats feature is rolling out for users in the coming days, on the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store. There should be in-app notifications as well once the feature rolls out. The idea is to add the critical privacy aspect here as well—keep your mobile number private while chatting in these group conversations.