So avid users of Truecaller, like myself, will be disappointed to know that the company has decided to integrate a rather controversial form of advertising on the platform. Truecaller has over 250 million users who do around 4.2 billion searches monthly, and the company wants to leverage that.
The company describes this new feature as “unique” and thus providing advertisers an “opportunity to engage millions of active users all over the world”. Mobile advertising on Truecaller will rely on Call Intent Targeting (CIT) to serve custom messaging when users are present and engaged i.e. searching for phone numbers or in after-call notifications.
So first, what is Call Intent Targeting? According to MyCustomer, Intent targeting is the process of monitoring what individuals say on ‘open’ social media platforms and mobile apps to ascertain which products they may want, before directly targeting them with associated online adverts.
Call Intent Targeting therefore means that advertisers will be able to reach you by targeting your phone number, your name or business categories that you search on Truecaller.
Truecaller goes ahead to explain that “advertisers are invited to create mobile phone takeovers by adding brand elements such as color and messaging to the native Truecaller interface”. This will mean that users get themed notification for incoming and missed calls.
Loosely translated to; the next time you want to use Truecaller for a phone number search, you might end up getting a UI full of pizza ads just because you ordered Pizza the previous day.
Adding insult to the injury, Truecaller ads will allow advertisers to reach users based on their location, time and “much more”, a much more that Truecaller does not explain further. So be prepared to get that pizza advert at exactly 1pm when you’re in the office just about to leave for lunch.
What’s so controversial?
“Truecaller will collect personal information from You and any devices You may use in Your interaction with our Services. This information may include e.g.: geo-location; Your IP address; device ID or unique identifier; device manufacturer and type; device and hardware settings; SIM card usage; applications installed on your device; ID for advertising; ad data, operating system; web browser; operator; IMSI; connection information; screen resolution; usage statistics; default communication applications; access to device address book;”
“We may use any of the information collected, as set out above, to provide You with location and interest based advertising, marketing messaging, information and services. We may also use the collected information to measure the performance of our advertising and marketing services.”
“We transfer information to trusted vendors, service providers, and other partners who support our business and Services…“
In short, once you sign up on Truecaller, they own you.
The decision to uninstall Truecaller is up to you, however, the risk is not worth it. I can live with Google trailing me with ads based on my internet usage but when it gets as personal as my phone number, it’s time to uninstall.
Truecaller reached out to me to clarify a few things through their director of communications. The company says that their “mission is to make communication safe and efficient for users. To keep offering these popular features for free we need to introduce ways to monetize – as for any company that wants to be sustainable.”
They go ahead to give an option to get the pro app for those who do not want ads on Truecaller.
When asked whether the pro version collects user data, the company said, “…you don’t need to be a Pro user in order to deactivate that [tracking]. You just go in to the native phone setting, ads setting, and opt out from ads personalization.”
The choice is still yours to make, go pro, keep the app or uninstall.