Voxer Contacts Privacy Concerns

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If you have recently signed up for the popular push-to-talk service called “Voxer” you may have noticed a few things about the contacts after opening the app for the first time. Your co-workers, direct reports and otherwise undesired people may already have you in their contacts!

Voxer App for iPhone & Android has Privacy Concerns for New Users

Voxer App for iPhone & Android has Privacy Concerns for New Users

I just had a conversation with a co-worker that heard about the app and downloaded it to his iPhone to check it out. Upon creating his account and opening the application, he noticed that “Peter McDermott” was already listed as one of his contacts.

How did that happen?

My colleague does not have any of my contact information on his personal phone. I do not have any of my colleague’s personal information on my phone. None of our accounts, Google or not, are associated with each other. We have no online connection other than that within our exchange server at work using our work contact information.

How did I appear on his phone as a contact if we don’t maintain any of each other’s information?

Privacy Mode

By default, when you use the Voxer app it enables “Share Location” anddisables “Privacy Mode” in which “you can only be found by searching for your exact email address, otherwise people can find you by searching for your name or email address.”

Currently on Voxer I have my cell phone number, full name and e-mail address included in my profile. I do not have a picture and I do not have my location selected. I did, however, have location sharing enabled (as it was selected by default).

It Gets Worse

After telling his wife about the app, she downloaded it to her phone and created a profile. The next day at work several of her subbordanates came to her excited that they could now communicate with each other using the push-to-talk app outside of the workplace.

If you work in an environment where you have direct reports, your communication with them inside and outside of the office should always be courteous and professional. You probably take steps to ensure that they are not “friending” you on social networks like Facebook and that you are not sharing inappropriate information with them online. You are doing everything you can to keep a professional presence online and limiting your communication to the appropriate channels in the workplace.

Having your information appear automatically on others’ contact lists can create another channel (usually unwanted) for them to get in touch with you. Remember, you did not request them to be your “friend” and they did not request you to be their “friend” on this service, it all happened automatically.

How Does it Work?

I am working on getting in touch with the Voxer staff to see what is causing this behavior in their app. I imagine that it is a combination of the automatic privacy settings and allowing people to add contacts based on their physical proximity (location sharing). Once I get more information, I will update the post to share with you what I find out.

What To Do

If you have the Voxer app on your Android or iOS device, I would highlyrecommend turning the Share Location feature OFF and turning the Privacy Mode setting ON. If you are worried about other people finding you, they will need the e-mail address you used in your profile to add you. These quick steps should help ensure that your use of Voxer is a pleasant one.

Your Feedback

Have you had an issue using Voxer? Have you had a similar situation? If so, leave your feedback below.

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  • http://www.voxer.com Voxer

    Hi Peter,

    Thanks for taking the time to write such a detailed post about your experience with Voxer. We’d love to provide some clarifications for you to help you better understand how our app works.

    First of all, let us state that we have had some bugs with how we matched users. We believe that these are fixed now. You are matched with people that you know if at least one of you has in his/her address book the email address / phone number of the other user and the other user shared that email / phone with us. You are also matched with people if you are both Facebook friends and you both signed up to Voxer with Facebook. As we improve the app, we will add features that allow users to control who they want to be matched with. Additionally, people can search for your name on the Voxer directory and add you. If you aren’t interested in talking to them you can block them or enable privacy mode.

    Secondly, physical proximity / location is not related to matching. It is a feature we offer for users to share their location with friends and it can be easily disabled.

    In general, features we offer in our app (matching, location sharing etc..) that some users see as unpleasant other users see as useful as it makes it easier for them to connect with friends. We are excited that so many people are finding Voxer useful. We know that we are not perfect, but we are definitely doing whatever we can to become better and smarter. We appreciate your feedback and see value in the experience that you and other people share with us.

    Please let us know if you have any other questions!

    Voxer Support

  • aenar

    Wow- it set you up with people you know! Would you rather talk to people you don’t know? Or are you one of those work avoidance types?
    Sounds like you are a crybaby slacker

  • karla

    Well, I had all my facebook friends show up- it was cool! Whats your beef?

  • petergmcdermott

    Voxer,

    Thanks for the quick reply. I would like to invite one of your representatives for a video interview to discuss the issues and the changes that have been made and to help explain how contacts are suggested.

  • http://www.voxer.com Voxer

    Hey Peter,

    While we don’t have time right now to be available for a video interview, we are happy to answer any specific questions you might have. Please send us an email: support@voxer.com

    Cheers!

  • Cilla

    Today i had someone vox (the text way) my bf from the voxer name “youwish youknew” this person popped up on my list last night and a couple other friends. Anyway, they are causing problems for him and i and our family. And its obvious its someone we both know bc they must be in our contacts or FB. How can I find out who it is, is there anyway? HELP.

  • http://www.vintuitive.com Vincent Brown

    Voxer wrote: “You are matched with people that you know if at least one of you has in his/her address book the email address / phone number of the other user and the other user shared that email / phone with us.”

    The point is, I didn’t give you permission to view my address book. Why did you not ask for my permission first?

  • Kenny

    There needs to be an approval of a person wanting to be in a group chat to avoid @#$%’s and spam!!!!! I keep getting added to a group I don’t want to be in and there is too many people to block!!! Maybe add the ability to BLOCK and entire group!!! They are causing my battery to die so fast and causing a back log of notifications… I like the app but not for this!!!!

    more or less if someone wants to add me to a group and option would appear for me to confirm or deny becoming a member of that said group

    thanks

  • Guillermo

    @voxer, so on my voxer’s contact list will appear anyone that have installed voxer and have my email/phone on his/her contact address even if I don’t know that person? Is that right?

  • Voxer Me!

    I keep getting voxer spam text, just random text from people I haven’t talked to in years or numbers I don’t even know saying “voxer me!”. I don’t even have this app and I never will, not if it goes thru ur address book and txts everyone u know!

  • heather

    It seems like Voxer still has this problem. I got a text message from an unknown phone number saying Vox me with a URL link to Voxer. This is unacceptable. The share location feature should be opt in, not opt out, and privacy mode should be enabled by default. I would recommend people to NOT use this app.

  • hazel

    my husband recently downloaded voxer on his phone and i noticed 2 females that i dont know in his voxer contacts.he claims they were added automatically.but now im confused after reading this.is it possible for people you dont know to be added to your contacts

    • BNP

      This is a known problem which they have chosen to not fix apparently, because it’s been going on since last November. People getting SMS invites to install Voxer from unknown people and unknown people being added to your contact list automatically. Just google “Voxer Spam” to see similar complaints.

      The way this happens is simple. when you install Voxer, if you agree to give permission to access your address book, they upload all email addresses, phone numbers, first and last names in your address book up to their servers. They then “match” you with anybody else who happens to have your phone number or email address in their address book. Even people you don’t know or want as contacts are added, and then you have to manually block or delete them. It appears people who don’t even have Voxer installed are being sent these SMGs invites as well. This is called a “feature” to allow you to find more friends. You aren’t opted out of this unless you decline their request to access your address book to “find friends” during install. You are never informed your address book is being uploaded to their servers or that you are creating an account with them.

      Some people like talking to perfect strangers I guess. I’m not one of them. IMO, unless you personally invite somebody by sending a SMS with your own fingers, I thinks this constitutes “spam” and invasion of privacy. This is how Voxer has become so popular in the last year. It’s viral marketing, at the expense of invading peoples’ privacy and security. I would not install Voxer until they address and fix these problems and have a Delete Account option.
      But if you still want to install, I would go read their privacy policy and Support Forum user comments first. Be informed

  • Louise

    Hi! I blocked someone on Facebook last year. Last week I got notified that she’s already voxing! Wow. We’re added automatically to each other’s contacts. How wise can this app be.

  • BNP

    Another thing that Voxer needs to address is to add a “Delete Account” option. It’s been requested by Voxer users since 12/11 and is still not available. As far as I know (and correct me if I’m wrong), when you download Voxer you create a profile on their remote server. When you give them permission to access your phone number, phone contacts and FB contacts, that information resides on their server forever, even if you uninstall the app or reset your smartphone because there is no Delete Account option. This has implications of a very serious security flaw, one that was caught by several Voxer users who sold or gave their old phones away. Even if you wipe clean your phone and reset it, the next person who gets your phone (one they install Voxer) will receive the previous owners Voxer messages with no password required. See this thread for details of this bug, which has not been fixed as of July 5, even though they were aware of it back in Feb: https://support.voxer.com/entries/20864097-security-bug. I think Voxer is a good idea, but it has some major security and privacy issues.

  • jaredp

    Recently my girlfriend called me and asked about random girls appearing in my voxer contacts. I have my facebook linked and my email, but i have never in my life met the people being added. This causes alot of stress for me. I dont know people that are popping up in my notifications and i cant find any info on where they come from. voxer needs to fix this soon.

  • Earl P

    I keep getting spam from voxer and it’s driving me crazy. I don’t want it or need it, but it keeps coming in over and over and over…
    Where is the opt out on their web page, oh yeah, there isn’t one.
    Can you say class action….

    • BNP

      As a matter of fact, a class action lawsuit is already in the works…Make sure you are added as a plaintiff if interested. It alleges that the plaintiff (Hickey) and others received unsolicited automated SMS text messages from Voxer. Anybody who installs Voxer is unwittingly giving Voxer the OK to send “invites” to all their contacts, even kids. The message is worded like it’s from you, but it’s automated spam. It says something like “Vox Me” or “I sent you a message on Voxer” with a link to download. It looks like it’s from a trusted source, so most people just download it. It’s clearly deceptive. I would think they’d want to rewrite their app because this lawsuit could end up costing them a lot of money for every violation since 2011. It’s a good app, just not marketed in the right way.

      http://blog.ericgoldman.org/archives/2012/09/courts_allows_t.htm

  • Mike

    I signed up for Voxer the other night, and on arriving at the part of “inviting friends from address book” I deselected the contacts – so that an invite would not occur. But the app went ahead and sent invites to every single contact in my address book. Even landline phones that had an SMS facility. In some cases the landlines could not accept the SMS and the phones were ringing, with a phone number to call back, to read out the message(S) electronically. Family were enraged at me, for getting calls at 12am, 1am, 2am (repeatedly!).
    When i say i got agro from family, i mean extended family – cousins, uncles, aunts, friends, business contacts, etc … anybody that got pissed off having repeated phone calls and SMS arriving at crazy hours.

    Voxer is too open, no boundaries – in my experience dangerous!

  • Monica Velazquez

    I know some people say…”what’s your beef?” My beef like Peter’s is that there are people I know that I have a professional relationship only. Voxer is to chat with friends and family and that is great. My exboyfriend apprear on my “friends” which is probably because “HE” still has my infomation eventhough it has been way over a year since the last time we spoke. And yes, this can create a problem if you are alreaady moved on and he hasn’t.

  • vanessa

    my phone got stolen is there anyway i can track it through voxer?????????

    • http://www.petergmcdermott.com/ Peter G McDermott

      I really doubt it…

  • Travis Rawson

    I recently had a friend ask me ( while i was voxing her ) why i was at the exact location i was at. How did she do this with voxer? And how do i do the same?

  • DecenttDiscourse

    As many of you can see, nothing is “free.” These apps are not built by nice people who just want you to have fun. They are in it for $$$, which is not a horrible thing, but they do not care what it takes and so they will use your data and manipulate it as they see fit.

    What we really need these days are apps written cooperatively which mimic apps we like and let us choose precisely how much or how little we wish to participate.

    The reason I’m on this page is because I wanted to see just how badly this app would screw up my phone before I installed it. I suspected exactly what I have discovered here.

  • Nonuser

    I did not download the Voxer app nor was it preloaded on my phone but I am getting text messages saying “send me a message on Voxer http://goo.gl/neVrn” I replied STOP and I just received a text that said “wys” I don’t even know the number that is sending me the texts.

  • jojo4me

    hello i wanna ask a question ???can u plz answer

  • jojo4me

    the question is if i make a copy and paste on clipboard who can hear it other than the one i wanna send it to plz help