By Phil Aldridge, Director

Beware of unilaterally importing your Outlook contacts into Skype because you may end up with strangers in your Skype directory.

A client of ours recently imported his Outlook contacts into Skype. Somehow, in searching through his contacts, Skype retrieved and listed data for people he didn’t know.

To find out why this problem occurred, I imported my own Outlook contacts into Skype and then I reviewed them very carefully to see if there was anyone I do not know. Out of my contacts, it gave me at least 30 people I do not know directly. In my case, there were four reasons for why this happened:

1. An email address that has been re-used. I knew someone at a company who had left. Their email address had been re-used and was used to register an account with Skype. The new owner of this email address I do not know, but Skype listed them.

2. A generic email address which has been used to register different Skype accounts. Some people use a corporate email account to give to staff for registering Skype accounts. For instance I have one contact from a company for whom everyone uses info@ to register the Skype accounts. There were in some cases around 20 different people with skype accounts using the generic email. I do not know any of these people.

3. A personal email address which is shared between members of the family. I have many friends whose personal email address they share with their husband, wife or children. If they have used this personal email to register Skype accounts, I get offered these people as a contact in Skype. There were many cases where Skype offered me the Skype contact of the wife of people I know. In no cases do I know the spouse.

4. A re-used phone number. Phone numbers over time pass between people so there are instances where a contact I once knew, no longer has that number. The new owner may associate the number with their Skype account, so Skype offers their Skype account as a contact for me.

I am sure there are other situations that would cause strangers to appear beyond the four specifics I just listed, but I think all four scenarios provide a good reason to be cautious when automatically importing contacts into Skype.

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