We ask for your phone number when you sign up for an account for a few reasons. Some of these reasons are legal, some are to do with helping people connect to each other in the network and some are to do with limiting spam and abuse on the platform.
Read on to find out some of the core reasons we require your phone number and how we use it.
What are the legal reasons you need my phone number?
There are various circumstances where we may have a legal obligation to inform you of activity on, or problems with, your account. And there are a few occasions where you have legal rights to control information you've put on our servers where we may need to confirm your identity. For these reasons, we need a reasonably verifiable way to contact you.
One example in the US is the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. By law if we are informed of a copyright violation, we are required to remove or disable access to the allegedly infringing material. We are also legally required to take reasonable steps to promptly notify the alleged infringer. To notify them, we need to have some way to contact them.
In the EU, according to the General Data Protection Regulation we are legally required to inform you if there is a data breach or other substantial problem with your account. While we try to minimize the amount of information we store about anyone, if you publish a post via the Planetary client it will by default be posted to one of our servers so other people can see it. That counts as us collecting information, and so we need to be able to inform you if that data ends up being compromised.
How is my phone number used to help me connect with people on the network?
Planetary has a 'User Directory' that is designed to help people find one another on the platform. When you sign up for an account you choose whether or not you'd like to be in that directory, and you can change your mind at any time by going to the app's Settings screen.
If you *are* in the User Directory, we'll also tell any friends of yours that sign up about your account. That way they can find and—if they want to—follow you.
To match you with your friends, when they sign up we ask them for access to their address book and compare an encrypted version of the information they have with an encrypted version of your contact details. If they match, we tell them about your account. If they don't, we don't tell them anything.
How does having my phone number limit spam or abuse on the platform?
It's theoretically possible for someone to create many accounts on Planetary with which to spread abuse, harassment, spam, copyrighted content or any number of other illegal things. By requiring new users to confirm a real-life phone number during sign-up, we have at least one way to see if someone abusing the system has other accounts.
We don't restrict the number of accounts that can be associated with any one phone number, but if a user is regularly breaking our Terms of Service or our Community Code of Conduct across multiple accounts, we reserve the right to ban all accounts connected to that phone number.
Are there any other reasons you want my phone number?
Yes, but the vast majority of reasons fall into two major categories: (1) because we need to be able to inform you about something legally important or to let you know about of a major problem or (2) because there are circumstances where we may need to confirm your identity before we undertook an action.
Here's one example of why we might need to confirm your identity: because of the way Planetary is built, it's possible for you to permanently lose access to your account by losing your secret key. In that circumstance you'd be unable through the app to delete your own content. Providing us with a way to contact you gives us the ability to confirm who you are, allowing us to be able to delete your content for you.
Will you send marketing messages to my phone number?
While we may need to send you occasional messages about the service, we will never sent you marketing messages to your phone number without your explicit consent.
What if I'd prefer to provide an e-mail address?
At the moment, we don't let people sign up with an e-mail address instead of a phone number, but we are looking into providing that option in the near future.