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Truecaller takes down the Recent Searches page that shouldn’t have existed to begin with

truecallerTruecaller says that it had a Recent Searches  page on its website to “enable better results for these web searches”. The company had taken down the page that was listing all searches made by its users around the world, after Medianama wrote about it on Tuesday.

Initially Truecaller took down only the page that listed the numbers by country, while maintaining the separate country-specific pages. We then contacted the service to find out why the country specific pages were not taken down, following which those pages where also taken down. The company did not state why it had not taken these pages down earlier. The link now takes you to Truecaller homepage.

Here’s why Truecaller had a ‘recent searches’ page

The company justified the existence of such a page by saying that many people still search for mobile numbers through web search engines. That basically means that it was there for better SEO.

The company added that it listed only those numbers that were searched a higher amount of times and covered businesses, local restaurants, or even telemarketers, fraud, prank, etc. “By having these listed, people inputting those higher searched numbers into search engines, have an increased possibility of discovering the number they are looking for,” the company stated.

That being the case, it is still possible to see the details of specific numbers by using a standard URL template www.truecaller.com/in/+91{number} which makes it convenient for scrapers. The company however stated that the web searches are limited to 10 searches per day, and that Truecaller further blocks scraping patterns and IP-addresses to guard against misuse. From what we noticed though, it was possible to view details of more than ten numbers from the ‘Recent searches’ page. Now that the page has been taken down, Truecaller might still be able to block scrapers.

It refused to divulge why it doesn’t use any form of hashing in its URL or what percentage of users search for numbers from the web. It also refused to tell us what percentage of Truecaller users end up registering on the service after finding a number via Google search.

Truecaller stated that it has gathered its team and a few users to discuss this specific topic.

Medianama take: While Truecaller was quick to take down the page, such a page shouldn’t have been there to begin with. We can understand that Truecaller set up a web search so that it can reach more people., but it is not clear why one should be allowed to create a Truecaller account without listing their phone number.

A phone number can be verified with an SMS code, making it difficult for spammers, unlike an email account or a Twitter id that could be used to create a Truecaller account. If Truecaller forces people to use phone numbers to register an account, it can block possible telemarketers or prank callers from accessing the details of the people listed on the site — since the service has a huge database of spammers.

The company has 30 million registered users in India alone and we hope that the company follows a strict privacy policy, even in the absence of a privacy law in India. It is such callous use of personal information that inspires governments to over regulate industries and we hope companies like Truecaller exhibit better judgement when putting up information online.

(Update: this post has been rewritten for clarity and better structuring)

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