Is Truecaller safe for use?

While using Truecaller to protect yourself from spam calls, have you willingly invited trouble? Read on.

FPJ Web DeskUpdated: Thursday, October 13, 2022, 06:02 PM IST
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Is Truecaller safe for use? | File

Truecaller in India has been a lifesaver as it helps you detect spam and sales calls. But if a research report by Viceroy Research is to be believed then Trucaller doesn't care about your privacy in India and is also guilty of avoiding taxes. Not only that, they also claim that Truecaller is collecting data from minors without their consent or knowledge.

The American Short Seller has released multiple reports until now; the first one was in September and the latest one was on October 3. The latest report came after Trucaller responded to the first report by Viceroy and said that the claims were incorrect and false.

Before we understand the reports it is important to understand how Trucaller functions.

Truecaller builds a phonebook by gathering identities of users and their address books, processing user-submitted spam numbers and identifying numbers which have exhibited spam-like behavior. Once that is done the app functions like a typical phonebook where users can search for phone numbers and it also identifies and blocks flagged spam callers.

The first report by Viceroy claims that the Swedish spyware is skirting regulations and avoiding taxes. Europe a few years ago introduced the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) to protect people's privacy. These regulations threaten the company's business so in order to find a way out the company moved all its data servers and operations in India where the policy designed for data protection are placid.

But Viceroy argues that the rules are applicable on all Truecaller users despite the data centers being located in India.

The report also mentions that Article 29 Working Party that is now replaced by the European Data Protection Board has sent a letter to Truecaller that highlighted concerns of its processing of personal data. This was prior to the implementation of GDPR.

Talking about taxes Viceroy says that the company issues bills from Sweden in order to avoid larger tax rates in India. In fact the company never paid any tax in the most recent financial year as it reported a loss in India despite posting large consolidated profits in 2021.

Despite the fact that 80% of the company's revenue comes from the Indian market the company claims to have faced a loss in India. In short while running from GDPR the company is Indian but while paying taxes the company is Swedish.

Viceroy also believes that Truecaller is violating Google's Privacy Policy as the company doesn't allow unauthorised disclosure of people's non-public contacts. Trucaller uses a feature called "Enhanced Search" that allows them to access users' contacts. By asking users to directly login through their website they can override this rule by google. Also in many cases the app is preinstalled on the phone excluding it from Google's rules.

With this feature Truecaller can also search for non-user numbers and names without their consent. This is a clear violation of privacy.

Viceroy also claims that the reason Trucaller hasn't been impacted by government regulations is that they have almost no business in the regions where there are spam filters.

After this report Trucaller refused each of these claims and to counter that Viceroy released another report that by point replied to the refusal of Truecaller. The focus on the second report should be on the fact that Truecaller is collecting data from minors.

Trucaller claims that it is restricting minors from its services and not collecting any of their data. It is only based on app store age restrictions. As the app in itself doesn't require users to input age while they sign in or create an account.

Viceroy claims that Truecaller is avoiding the main issue and it has minor's personal data published on its public phonebook without their consent or knowledge.

In its reply Truecaller also never gave a clear reply that they are exempted from the GDPR even when the functions are in India.

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