Some residents have reported receiving letters, apparently from other named Tarvin Neighbours about signing up to the "Nextdoor" app. We have looked into this and found that some of the apparent senders of the letter had no knowledge that printed letters would be sent in their name and although they don't have a specific issue with the app itself, they are not happy about having their name associated with its promotion.
Names and street have been changed...the letter reads:
"Our neighbourhood is now using a free app called next door Tarvin and you should join us it's the neighbourhood hub for useful information such as local business recommendations lost pets notifications safety updates and much more. It's also a great way to connect neighbours in need with those who can help it's 100% free and just for our neighbours.
Please download the next door app or go to www.nextdoor.co.uk/join and enter this code to join us: XXXYYY (this code expires in seven days!
Fred Blogs, Smith Street"
Firstly, all of what the app does can be done using Tarvin Online, the Tarvin Online website, several Facebook groups in train and you can set up WhatsApp, messenger or other messaging groups with neighbours, or even... go and talk to them!
Secondly and this is the subject of concern, there are articles online about this most unorthodox and somewhat questionable way in which Nextdoor are attempting to expand the reach of their app. It is not entirely certain whether this breaches GDPR (General data protection regulations) although I expect time will tell. The manner in which the app goes about registering new users leads them to enter their full address and then later the user is sent an email from Nextdoor asking if they would like to invite the neighbours to join, the assumption being they can click the button expecting to be able select a number of neighbours that they want to invite, but what appears to happen is that a notice that the link has expired shows up. Actually what happens is that their name is printed as the sender of a printed letter. It is this aspect which many users are taking issue with.
We must stress that although the method used by Nextdoor to reach new customers is questionable, they did inform their customers and asked for their permission, although it is certainly not as clear as it might have been. Sending out printed letters in someone's name is highly unusual, and probably should have been communicated much more clearly. As you are reading this, you can see that this decision has backfired on Nextdoor, due to negative media, and may have put more users off than they gained.
In their own blog, Nextdoor explain why and how they use this method, but Nextdoor intends to keep mailing out letters on its users behalf in this way, which is why we felt we should raise awareness.
Thirdly, in addition to this highly unorthodox method of expanding its use, there are some concerns that having your full address showing on the app may pose security issues and an increased likelihood of scammers using it to prey on vulnerable people. To avoid this, users can change the settings with the app to only provide their street name. Like other apps of this kind, Nextdoor gathers information about users and uses it for targeted marketing. Given the type of data--community information, locations, names--this is extremely valuable for marketing purposes, but could also be a security issue.
Sharing your information with people in your neighbourhood that you don't know very well could have other drawbacks. We would advise not to ask everyone to keep an eye out while you go on holiday. You may also be informing a burglar posing as a neighbour.
Finally, Nextdoor have received hundreds of complaints and poor reviews after some users behaved in an anti-social way, trolling or bullying neighbours for the fun of it. This is a real pity as it seems the app was set up in good faith by Nextdoor as something that could help neighbours connect and help each other. Like a pen. an app like this can be used for good or ill.
What is Nextdoor?
Nextdoor is an app that you can use to stay informed about what's going on in your neighborhood. (Many of the things you can use the app for can be done by checking out Tarvin Online, our website or by having a WhatsApp or other messaging group chat open with your neighbours. The app ties people together based on their location, so in this way, it is different from many other apps where people can form their own groups.