I am an app developer form Germany and quite unsure about American law. I am working on a social networking site where people can only participate if their friends invite them anonymously and via SMS.

It works like the following:

  1. The existing user selects the person that should be invited from his contacts

  2. The selection triggers our service to send an anonymous SMS going: "Someone has invited you to join X: click on the link below to join." or something.

Now, apart from the fact that this may look like a phishing SMS, am I legally allowed, not to retrieve the phone number, that is all sorted out in the EULA and terms and conditions, but to anonymously send an SMS to this phone number?

up vote 0 down vote accepted

It could be legal, but maybe illegal. This Q&A from the FTC may me useful. There is no general rule in the US against anonymously contacting someone, but there is a spam opt-out registry. Internet-to-phone SMS might be illegal if the recipient is in the registry and the message is "commercial". There are different rules (via the FTC Act or the Telephone Consumer Protection Act) if this is phone-to-phone SMS (same opt-out registry). Here is a sample ruling against a company (Satterfield v. Simon & Schuster) for sending an illegal text message.

  • Thank you, that helped me a lot! I guess I am going to be better off to let the user send the SMS from his phone so that he actively sends it, not me. – Whazzup Oct 17 at 21:25

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