About Plaxo

Christian Buckley

Christian is a 7-time Office Servers and Services MVP, internationally-recognized technology evangelist and collaboration expert, and the Founder & CEO of CollabTalk LLC, an independent research and technical marketing services firm based in Salt Lake City, Utah.

  • Christian,

    My name is Stacy Martin and I am the Privacy Officer here at Plaxo responsible for addressing Privacy, Security, and Trust issues pertaining to the usage of Plaxo.

    From your posting, there appears to be a number of misunderstandings regarding Plaxo that I’d like to help clarify, if possible.

    > What is Plaxo?

    Plaxo is a software program and service that helps people manage and maintain their contact, calendar, notes and tasks information. Our service works to help people stay connected to those they wish to stay connected with, and Plaxo provides the infrastructure for enabling this to happen.

    Given your diverse background in business and technology, I’m sure you can appreciate the common problem that many people face in losing touch with friends and business associates. You’ve probably come know many people in the various companies that you’ve dealt with, and you might wish to stay in touch with these people over the coming years should you every wish to work with them again? Unfortunately, people change jobs, move addresses, switch mobile phone numbers, change e-mail addresses, etc… and it’s easy to lose touch.

    Plaxo helps to address this problem by helping people stay connected. In a nutshell, through the use of Plaxo, it is possible to automatically update those people you wish to update anytime you change your information, without any further action on your part, or your contact’s part. They, in turn, can do the same. This way, they will always have your latest updated contact information, and you can always have theirs.

    You questioned our long-term business model, but unfortunately, it’s not clear to me exactly what concerns you may have.

    Our business model is built around providing compelling premium services to our growing membership base. We currently have over 3M Plaxo members that utilize the Plaxo service with a target of nearly 5M by year’s end. Given the diversity of our membership base, there are a number of various premium services that we are looking to provide. We recently announced our beta program for many of these new services.

    For example, many of our members, simply want to better manage their information. I suspect you are like me, and over the years you’ve accumulated an address of perhaps a few thousand users. Some are old, some are duplicates, some are extremely important that you may never want to lose.

    We are currently beta testing a premium Duplication Contact Remover feature of Plaxo. In addition, we will soon provide enhanced backup and restore capabilities for the many members who tell us they want insurance against a system crashes, stolen laptops, or system restores due to viruses. Plaxo gives them that peace of mind by enabling them to restore their critical information quickly and easily.

    Other member’s want data mobility and improved data synchronization capabilities. For these people, contact information is their lifeblood. They need to be able to make that call to right person at the right time.

    We are currently beta testing Mobile Web Access (WAP access) to the information managed with Plaxo so you can always access your contact information while away from your system. Or our upcoming Send-to-Phone feature will allow Plaxo member to easily send any name and phone number from their local address book to the address book on their mobile phone. The member won’t have to deal with reentering information, or fuss with complicated syncing software and hardware.

    And other members simply want to better utilize their contact information to improve relations and stay better in touch with friends, family and business associates. Plaxo’s new Birthday Reminder service will help members to never forget a birthday again and allow them to follow up with the contact in a personal, thoughtful fashion.

    But these are just a few examples, with many more to come as the Plaxo continues to grow and mature. Think about all the many times you have enter and reenter in the same information. Think about the many places where you maintain the same contact information, whether it be in different devices, applications, web accounts, etc…

    We certainly believe there are significant long-term revenue opportunities in this space. Our investors such as Cisco Systems, Sequoia Capital (Yahoo!, Google, eBay), and Globespan Capital Partners (Sybase, Openwave, Ventro) believe the same as well.

    As for the specific Privacy Concerns you mentioned:
    >
    > Privacy Concerns:
    >
    > * Since you don’t have any contractual agreements with Plaxo
    > regarding information sharing, Plaxo has not agreed to
    > protect such information. Using Plaxo software potentially
    > discloses confidential information about you, your friends,
    > and your business contacts without your explicit consent.

    INCORRECT – All Plaxo member’s have a contractual agreement with Plaxo by agreeing to our Terms of Service. Our Terms of Service, also encompasses our Plaxo Privacy Policy which states:

    – Your Information is your own and you decide who will have access to it.
    – You maintain ownership rights to Your Information, even if there is a business transition or policy change.
    – You may add, delete, or modify Your Information at any time.
    – Plaxo will not update or modify Your Information without your permission.
    – Plaxo will not sell, exchange, or otherwise share Your Information with third parties, unless required by law or in accordance with your instructions.
    – Plaxo does not send spam, maintain spam mailing lists, or support the activities of spammers.

    This is a contractual agreement between Plaxo and the Plaxo member. We are therefore prohibited from sharing a Plaxo member’s information, including information within the member’s address book, with a 3rd party as described above.

    We believe this is one of the strongest Privacy Policies around and emphasizes our focus on protecting the privacy of Plaxo members and their contacts.

    >
    > * Contact information shared with Plaxo may include
    > confidential information such as home addresses, home phone
    > numbers, and mobile/cell phone numbers.
    >

    Correct – Plaxo does help members to manage and maintain basic contact information such as Name, e-mail, address, phone, fax, etc… These are the same standard fields that people find in any contact management program including basic e-mail programs.

    It should also be noted that Plaxo is not doing something unheard of in the past. Most people manage and maintain the same type of information in their online address books for web-based e-mail services such as Yahoo!, MSN, AOL, etc… What is your position with relation to these services. Do you have the same type of privacy concerns for people who use these services?

    > * Use of Plaxo on can place your PC at risk to malicious
    > code in Internet and e-mail viruses and worms.
    >

    INCORRECT, but I’d like to better understand what leads you to believe such a statement. First, installation of the Plaxo software is entirely optional for one to become a Plaxo member.

    But for those users who do download and run the Plaxo software, Plaxo is nothing more than a small add-in running on the user’s local system. Plaxo works to synchronize the user’s local address book with their Plaxo Online account. This provides the benefits of Anywhere, Anytime web-access to their Plaxo information, synchronization between multiple systems, and always updated address book information.

    Plaxo works by leveraging the published API provided by Microsoft to create a registered COM Add-in.

    I agree that people should be cautious before downloading any type of software. They should have an understanding about what the software does and how it operates. But there is nothing to lead me to believe that Plaxo places any greater risk to a user’s PC for any malicious code in the Internet, or e-mail viruses and worms.

    > * Because Plaxo can send messages on behalf of its members,
    > some recipients may incorrectly believe those messages came
    > from you.

    INCORRECT. Plaxo never sends messages without the expressed instruction and approval of the Plaxo member. Plaxo does not automatically send any message out on behalf of a Plaxo member, or automatically send out “Reminder” messages to the member’s contacts.

    Plaxo member’s have complete control over WHEN they decide to send a message through Plaxo, to WHOM of their contacts they wish to send the message to, and WHAT the personalized content of the message is.

    Based on the expressed instructions of the Plaxo member, Plaxo acts as an e-mail service provider for the processing of these messages and any responses through the Plaxo service.

    >
    > What do I need to do?
    >
    > If you are currently using Plaxo or a similar third party
    > service to manage your contact information, discontinue use
    > immediately as follows: e-mail remove@plaxo.com to inform
    > Plaxo support that you wish to end your service.
    >

    If any member wishes to remove their Plaxo account, they can do so by sending a message to remove@plaxo.com as you have indicated or alternatively, people can immediately delete their Plaxo account by going to the URL:

    https://www.plaxo.com/delete_account

    and click the Delete My Account button. This will give them immediate confirmation that their account has been removed.

    I apologize for the lengthy message, but hopefully I’ve been able to clarify some of the issues. Should you have any further questions, please let me know.

    Thank you,

    Stacy Martin
    Plaxo Privacy Officer
    privacy @t plaxo.com

  • Christian

    Stacy, thanks for the update. But while most of your points cover Plaxo’s product roadmap, my comments on the invasiveness of the product and the user’s inability to protect themselves stand. Plus, in the future, a company could acquire Plaxo for its functionality and user database, and that company would not necessarily be held to the same Privacy Policy. Your current policy refers to users, not a company acquiring Plaxo.

    Anyone using this system also runs the risk of having unwanted advertising “pushed” to their desktops whenever you update your contact information. This is not a major issue – you can elect to open the request or not.

    Maintaining your personal contacts on your own system is one thing – sharing them across a 3rd party network are quite another. Plaxo works well…I’ve used it…but those who have security concerns must understand the potential downsides.

  • Anonymous

    > Plus, in the future, a company could acquire
    > Plaxo for its functionality and user database,
    > and that company would not necessarily be held
    > to the same Privacy Policy. Your current
    > policy refers to users, not a company
    > acquiring Plaxo.

    Actually, this is not correct though it is a common misunderstanding.

    Even if Plaxo were acquired by another company, existing Plaxo users would still be protected under the terms and conditions of the current Privacy Policy.

    People may be familiar with Section 5 of the FTC Act, which declares “unfair or deceptive acts” are declared unlawful. The FTC has demonstrated in the past that an organization’s failure to live up to published privacy practices are considered “unfair or deceptive” and the FTC has taken corrective action to protect consumers in these cases.

    The FTC Act also covers material changes to privacy policies such as change of ownership, bankruptcy, etc… The FTC operates under the concept that “a privacy policy walks with the information”. In the recent case between the FTC and Gateway Learning, Howard Beales, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, summed it up by stating, “You can change the rules but not after the game has been played.” I direct you to the FTC site for more information: http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2004/07/gateway.htm

    The bottom line is, while it is permitted for a company (or acquiring company) to change their privacy policy, the existing users continue to be protected under the original statements.

  • I find it interesting that this post is the most popular hit on my site, and the vast majority of those hits are the result of Google/Yahoo/MSN searches for something along the lines of “how to remove Plaxo”

  • Joseph

    This PLAXO is killing me I can no longer send e-mails.There must be a way of deleting this monster!

  • Karl Mutch

    I cannot agree more with your article. Ms Martins response is totally focused on what Plaxo wishes to achieve and do, not upon the interests of those who’s data is entered by third parties and stored on this (dis)service. I certainly hope that the investors involved consider their exposure to successful litigation to have peoples details removed that find their way onto this service.

    Opt out of email updates is totally deficient as data stored within this system depends upon Plaxo’s efforts to protect it and no amount of e-trust etc etc solves this fundamental issue. Opt out does nothing to address the privacy of individuals as the data is still there and remains on the service.

    Does Plaxo offshore any of its operations, development, storage. This company relies upon a certain type of abuse of trust with a largely ignorant public.

  • John Percival

    I use Plaxo and find it a very useful service. It is no different to maintaining an address book in Googlemail or Hotmail in terms of security and privacy issues. It provides a very useful method for keeping my address book up to date and notifying my contacts of my updated details. I think all this fuss is a bit over the top!

  • ERNIE

    please delete my account

  • CypeThepsyRew

    Just because he’s dead is no reason to lay off work.

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  • stinking Kevin!

  • OK, let me repeat that… Sometimes I can’t help but give free reign to my funny box I have a joke for you =) How do you keep a bagel from getting away? Put lox on it!
    ___________________________
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