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Some Call Blocking Apps Steal Your Data – We don’t.

“This app would like access to your contacts.” It’s a common pop-up on iOS and Android phones – many apps need access to your contact information to work correctly. But what happens to those contacts when you share them? Where do they go?

Many robocall-blocking apps (and yes, our direct competitors) have come under fire recently for sharing that sensitive information without the consumer’s knowledge. In getting rid of one problem, you could be inviting a host of new ones when you hit “OK” on that request. According to Dan Hastings, a senior security consultant at NCC Group, apps including Truecaller, TrapCall, and Hiya were all big offenders.

We don’t want to say we told you so, but First Orion published a blog post last year talking about contact harvesting. Apps that rely on crowdsourced and community-powered data need your information to make their “technology” work. Some people even reported receiving more spam calls after signing up for specific apps, likely because their numbers were sold to a third party.

The problem, of course, is what these apps are doing with your data after they collect it. According to Hastings, Hiya and Truecaller shared private information from phones before getting any permission, and TrapCall shared info with a third-party without disclosing they would do so in their privacy policy. 

Fox News anchor Brett Larson says the issue with these apps is what they’re doing in the background without the consumer’s knowledge. It’s not just contact information you have to worry about, either; they could be harvesting your location data to sell to third parties as well.

The fact is, call blocking apps (including PrivacyStar!) require access to contacts to ensure that your wanted calls make it through. It also allows us to identify who is calling you and why, block known scammers, look up numbers and file official complaints with the FTC. You can see what information we collect and how we use it on our Privacy Policy, but here’s the TL;DR version: We’re hyper-sensitive to your data and how we use it; as a rule, we disclose what we are doing upfront with caller info before gathering anything. We never share user-specific data to any third party – in fact, we consider ourselves a data company first and foremost.

At First Orion, it’s important to us that mobile carriers, businesses, and consumers all feel comfortable with how we handle their data. What we do here is data-driven, so we’re always thinking about how to protect that data before we do anything else. While our apps may ask for access to your contacts, they stay where they belong – on your phone. We only ever see a phone number: not your name, or your friend’s name, or their contacts. You’re just a number to us. That’s it.

Sorry, you’re just a number to us.

Want to learn more about how we protect both mobile consumers and businesses? Read more here.

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