While updating to version 2.2.1 of Yelp’s Android app today, we noticed something interesting. Since version 2.2, Yelp has been requiring access to Android users’ phone contacts, and the reaction to that requirement has been pretty negative on the app’s comment section in the Android Market (you can check out all the comments on AndroidZoom):
- “Read my contacts…uninstall! Use the Yelp mobile formatted website instead!” – JM, October 1, 2 star rating
- “Why do you need to read my contact data?” – Terry, October 1, 1 star rating
- “Why does it want my contact data?” – Vince, September 30, 3 star rating
- “Hands off my contacts. Eliminate that security flaw or I will uninstall.” – FOCOLOCO, September 29, 1 star rating
- “Requires too many permissions. Stay away from my contacts.” Doug, September 28, 2 star rating
- “No need for this app to read my contacts. If I am meeting friends I already know where, and if I’m not I don’t care. If I did I could use Latitude.” Russell, September 25, 2 star rating
- “I love this app, until they felt the need to be invasive and read contact data. Revert these insulting changes immediately!!” Sam, September 23, 1 star rating
- “New updates violates privacy. You do not need access to my private contacts.” Z, September 21, 1 star rating
Ok, so first of all, this has been an ongoing complaint for weeks, and right now it is dominating the comment stream of this pretty popular service’s Android app. We found this thread on Yelp.com that went up on August 30, and a Yelp employee explained the functionality this way:
Hey all – Eric from Yelp HQ here.
Definitely understand your concern, and I’m happy to share exactly how we use your contacts. If you are logged in to the Yelp app, we’ll give you an option to find new Yelp friends using your contacts list. So if anyone in your contacts is already using Yelp, we’ll tell you that and you can decide whether to add them as friends. No emails are sent to anyone in your address book without your explicit authorization and we never store your contacts.
Hope that helps clarify things!
Ok, so you can decide for yourself if this is helpful or not – but regardless, many users, we’re sure, never visit Yelp.com, and Yelp needs to get this message out to users on Android and quickly to get control of this situation. The comments must certainly be giving new users pause when they consider adding the application – or see the update like we did today. Perhaps there really isn’t anything they can do to slow down the continuing negative reviews, but they need to try. Honestly, right now it’s Android Market page is harboring a concentration of negative reviews that you rarely see with a popular app.
Also, let this be a warning to other apps that might be considering requiring the “read.contacts” permission – if you do, make sure to very clearly explain why you’re doing it.