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Vonage Abusing Your Friends

Vonage, the VoIP service, has a feature where their users can refer their friends to the service. If you sign up from one of those referrals, you get a free month of service; and your friend gets two free months. In March 2006, I asked one of my friends to refer me so I could look at the service plans. I decided to go with the Gizmo Project VoIP service. Of course, now I will never look at using Vonage again. I really need to explore Asterisk.

Last Friday, June 22nd, I got another Vonage referral from my friend, 15 months after he referred me! Vonage is apparently going back through their records and re-asking people to join up. This is an abuse of the trust that I (and my friend) had with them. And I believe my friend will be flabbergasted as well that Vonage would spam in his name. Whenever a refer-a-friend occurs, the email address doesn’t need to be stored. There was a unique hash in the referral URL, that’s all they need to store. By maintaining a database of email addresses, Vonage was creating a valuable database that I’m sure any marketer would love to (ab)use. So why keep the addresses?

Vonage needs to modify their Privacy Policy. Specifically, they need to make it a firm policy that any email addresses or other information given to them by a customer for a referral will only be used once. And that information will be deleted from Vonage’s records after a set amount of time (30 days?). Vonage needs to make it clear that they care and respect people’s privacy.

On a side note, their privacy policy says they will honor email opt-outs within 30 days. CAN-SPAM says they need to do that within 10 days.

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