February 17th 2017
If you are a user of Streetlife, the UK social networking website for local communities which has recently been sold to a US community messaging site, you are being warned to consider your privacy and safety if you transfer your account details across to the new owner, Nextdoor. The deadline for moving to Nextdoor is drawing close, which may prompt some users to do so without considering the implications.
Until now, Streetlife users had only to reveal their first name and local area name, adding the street name if they wished. Nextdoor, however, publishes not only members’ name and area or street name … but also their house number. It is possible for the user to delete their house number, but this may not be intuitive to some users and it is widely felt that their security will be compromised.
It is believed that a number of angry users have already unsubscribed on finding out about this issue, whilst more are considering doing so.
Streetlife was set up in Wandsworth, London nine years ago and rolled out across the UK three years later. It links together users and groups in the same neighbourhood, enabling them to post and respond to messages, events, polls and images. It has grown to over a million users in over 4,000 communities.
Last week, members received an email informing them of the Nextdoor acquisition, telling them that Streetlife would be closed down in two weeks. Allegedly, no clear explanation of the difference between the two was provided in the notification. In addition, no such details appear on the announcement email: https://www.streetlife.com/about/press/
As a result, users have closed accounts owing to fear of identity theft and compromised personal safety.
The BBC’s Rory Cellan-Jones cites the case of a female member whose violent ex-partner was also a member whom she had not made aware of her new address, for obvious reasons. She moved across to Nextdoor on receiving the email – as did her ex-partner – and her address appeared by default. He has been in touch to say he knows where she lives.
The victim says that she is dissatisfied with Nextdoor’s response to her complaint. The company did, however, apologise unreservedly to anybody who had been upset. It says that user details are available only within the immediate neighbour network.
Talking to the BBC, it added: "We put users firmly in control of managing their privacy settings, and over 90% of users choose to show their real identity and address.
"We are striving to clearly communicate the differences between Nextdoor and Streetlife to allow people to decide whether to sign up for Nextdoor, and this is an entirely voluntary process."
Map image from BBC News website.