Published on December 24th, 2018 | by Sunit Nandi


Beware! Data Watchdogs Can Extract Your Number From These Apps

The mobile phone numbers of Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn, former Prime Minister David Cameron, lots of celebrities and millions of other people are being stored in databases which can be searched by the public.

And although the personal mobile numbers can’t be obtained simply by entering a name, data watchdogs are pretty concerned about the way the data and information have been gathered.

These data and information have been collected and compiled by phone apps which promise to block spam texts and calls and allow the user to “reverse-lookup” calls and texts from numbers which they don’t recognize.

However, it appears that most of the numbers and names have been gathered without the owner’s knowledge!

In order to make things easier to understand, let us define “reverse phone look up” first.

What is Reverse Phone Lookup?

A reverse phone lookup service is a web-based app that is available for use on PCs or downloadable on mobile devices. Such services use public data in order to compile a user database of caller information from their own subscribers. The development companies store the contact info securely and uses it in order to inform their subscribers of a certain caller ID activity on their own mobile device.

Phone helps you trace any number of any missed calls that you have received. Moreover, the service provides an in-depth caller ID for landline and cell phone numbers. A reverse phone lookup service can include the physical address, name and contact number of any individual who is trying to call you on their cell phones.

And although development companies promise to securely store the contact info of their subscribers, some reverse lookup apps seem dangerous.

Dangers of Some Reverse Lookup Apps

Apps such as CM Security, and Truecaller, ask the users to upload their contact list when installing them. This means that they have a huge database and one app even claims that they have about 2 billion numbers.

These can then be searched in order to connect any number with a name, even though you type in a name and get a number. Such searches can be conducted on the website of the app provider without even installing the software on phones.

The BBC found out that numerous British numbers were also listed— including numbers of the music producer Pete Waterman, the Olympic diver Tom Daley, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, Mr. Corbyn and Mr. Cameron.

Many numbers appear to be stored in the database without the consent or knowledge of their owners.

For instance, the number of security researcher of Trend Micro, Rik Ferguson, was found in the database of Truecaller, but claim that he does not use the app and given any consent to store his number. He is questioning whether the app broke data protection regulations and described it as “highly deceptive”.

Great Security Concern

There is also a big concern in terms of the security of data. Truecaller, for instance, suffers a data breach in the year 2013, and admitted that it had fallen victim to a cyber-attack. They insist, however, that there are no sensitive data exposed.

Truecaller ensures that there is a strict protection of user data that is safely stored in Sweden and claims that it did not share any data or information with external organizations.

The terms and conditions of these apps mention that users should have permission from their contacts before sharing their info and data.

One of the apps in question, CM Security, said that they have now halted their reverse-lookup function and users can now opt out if they don’t want to have their numbers stored in their database.

Although reverse lookup seems like a cool idea, it is better to be careful with everything you share online and on apps you install. Uploading your address book does not only put your own privacy at risk but also the privacy of everyone else in your address book.

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I'm the leader of Techno FAQ. Also an engineering college student with immense interest in science and technology. Other interests include literature, coin collecting, gardening and photography. Always wish to live life like there's no tomorrow.

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