I have been a happy user of Plaxo for a while. To be honest, I’m not particularly concerned about privacy issues. As a blogger, I’m used to disclosing a lot of information about myself. I also believe that it’s in the best commercial interest of Plaxo to make sure there are no security or privacy breaches.
I recently sent around emails to my contacts through Plaxo. My intent was to inform my contacts about two new mobile phone numbers, so I hand-crafted a message in Plaxo to do that. For whatever reason – user error or software error – Plaxo’s standard email got sent out, including each person’s information in my address book and asking them to reply if something was wrong (including a nice Plaxo link for them to sign up, too).
I regarded this as a minor annoyance until a good friend emailed me saying “how can you possibly give my information to Plaxo without asking me?”. Call me naive, but this was a new perspective. I had never regarded syncing contacts as “giving them to Plaxo”. In my mind, my data at Plaxo is just that – MY data and nobody may touch it, especially not Plaxo Inc.
In the discussion that followed, we both tried to convince each other that there is no risk (me) or that there is (him).
It began to dawn to me that these standpoints are mutually exclusive. Not even because of any real threat – security equals perception to a certain extent, so there’s no “right” or “wrong”.
Now what do I do: I highly enjoy Plaxo’s convenience, and a decent part of my contacts also use it. But to keep out of trouble, I have to ask my contacts for consent before syncing my address book to Plaxo. This, of course, makes the servcice practically unusable for me, because only the full set of contacts available online makes sense.
I have of course taken action to delete my contacts from Plaxo online.
Yet, the problem remains. Whenever I send something through Plaxo to someone who is not a member, the suspicion that Plaxo may use that data remains, so any such service is not usable if you want to keep your friends.
That’s a classic catch 22 – any ideas how to resolve that?