When we give someone our contact information, we presume it will be used solely for his or her own purposes, unless otherwise specified. We don’t think they will share it with random people or businesses do we? No. But at the same time, we share our own address books with others constantly. Have you ever allowed Facebook to access your address book to connect with other friends? How about Twitter, Instagram, Google+, or LinkedIn? When it comes to social media, everyone is guilty of allowing a third party access to their private contacts, but we’re okay with that. If it helps up connect with our circles, then great!
What Do They See
We think that when companies are asking for access to our address books, if they even ask at all, they are just using it to see which of our friends are currently using the same apps and websites. But the problem is, most do not clearly state what they do with the information afterwards. Do they store it? Offer it to third parties? Use it for data mining? Or do they delete it after you’ve found your friends? Some companies have even been found uploading calendars, the “name” of phones, and uniqueUDID identifiers. While this is most likely harmless, companies that gain access to your address book can develop a sense of who you are and whom you know. Now this begs the question; do you have the right to share your contacts’ information?
Black and White
Some people say no, absolutely not. The contact information in your address book does not belong to you, so you have no right to share it with anyone. Others, like us here at CloudSponge, believe that your address book is yours, and you should be able to do with it what you please.
The Gray Area
However, the grey area to this is you have a responsibility to protect them. Make sure you don’t share other people’s email addresses in an irresponsible way (publicly) or with companies that will abuse or sell them. In other words, treat other people’s email addresses with the same level of attention to privacy as you would treat your own.
Practice Safe Sharing
You can start protecting your contacts from unwanted commerce with random companies by doing a few simple tasks.
• Don’t publically post your email, or your contacts’ emails, online. Spiders are trolling the Internet for emails, and worms can access your entire address book, allowing spammers access.
• Don’t share your contacts with a company which you are unfamiliar with, or do not trust.
• Always be aware of the apps on your phone that access your address book. Use a program like AdiOS to find out which ones do; you might be surprised as to how many!
At the end of the day you have to decide who should have access to your address book. Will you do whatever you please with it? Or will you respect the privacy of the people who entrusted you with their information? Or, have you found the grey area, where you only share the information under the right circumstances? (ie. Entering their address in a referral program with a company you know they will appreciate, or to connect with each other via social media). There are pros and cons to either side of the argument, and the gray area seems to be increasingly popular. So we ask, who owns your address book?