UPDATE July 18, 2013: Approximately 7 months after this article was published, there’s been news that the TrueCaller database has been hacked into by the so-called Syrian Electronic Army. Again, this highlights the need for users to be careful in the choosing the companies with whom they entrust their private data.
TrueCaller is a mobile app and online service that serves as a very large phonebook for reverse phone number lookups. It can be used to augment your own phone’s contact list in your iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Symbian, or BlackBerry device, helping you let know the names of unknown callers. You can test to see which of your or your friends’ numbers are available in their database at www.truecaller.com.
How does it work?
TrueCaller claims to source the caller information present in their database partly from public directories, and partly from “crowdsourced” data.
However, when I checked, their data didn’t seem to come from public directories. I began searching for my friends’ landline and mobile numbers and those of my own as well, and noted a few interesting things:
- Sometimes somebody else’s name would prop up. This would probably be a previous owner, or the former name of the person in case of a name change.
- Sometimes the company name would be suffixed or prefixed to the name.
This definitely seems to be populated from contact lists of users.
TrueCaller seems to stop here – it doesn’t, for example, seem to retrieve or store users’ locations. Also, it doesn’t support searching by name – you can only search by number. However, what TrueCaller does reveal is still bad enough, and has actually made many users unhappy, as you can see in a Quora thread on this subject.
Removing your Number
Luckily, fixing this privacy issue turns out to be easy. Head over to Unlist your Phone Number to request an automatic unlisting of your number. It took a few hours for my numbers to get unlisted, and I heaved a sigh of relief after that.