Laravel Voyager published by shady company

I’ve decided to call attention to the relationship between the popular package [Laravel Voyager](https://laravelvoyager.com/) and the company that owns it, [The Control Group](https://www.thecontrolgroup.com/).

I understand if this is viewed as unnecessarily antagonistic. My intention is to post my opinion about my values and I accept that we may not agree. I welcome disagreement and debate, and I'm trying to frame this as civilly as I can.

I was researching Laravel admin packages including Laravel Voyager for normal reasons. I played the video on the Voyager home page and recognized the logo for the company [Instant Checkmate](https://www.instantcheckmate.com/).

I verified that Voyager is in fact published and by the same team that makes products like Instant Checkmate and [TruthFinder](https://www.truthfinder.com/).

Ownership of these companies are woven into an interconnected set of shells and I didn't dissect it. You can explore them if you like.

* [https://www.crunchbase.com/organization/the-control-group](https://www.crunchbase.com/organization/the-control-group)
* [https://www.corporationwiki.com/California/Irvine/the-control-group-media-company-inc/107728959.aspx](https://www.corporationwiki.com/California/Irvine/the-control-group-media-company-inc/107728959.aspx)
* [https://www.corporationwiki.com/California/San-Diego/4110-Mission-Blvd-San-Diego-CA-92109-a20992008.aspx](https://www.corporationwiki.com/California/San-Diego/4110-Mission-Blvd-San-Diego-CA-92109-a20992008.aspx)

Instant Checkmate and Truthfinder are technically and ostensibly valid companies with legal business practices. In practice, and this is my opinion, they are predatory companies that abuse public records in ways that the majority of citizens would find displeasing.

The business models for these companies include scraping and collecting public records, publishing subsets of the information online, and selling the full sets of information to consumers. You can search for your name on their website now to see what information about you they are selling.

These sites are generally shady. Many of the sites are interconnected, using different white label storefronts and otherwise obscuring the actual company ownership. They employ deliberately confusing anti-patterns, misleading language and other anti-consumer behavior to misrepresent the data they are selling. They collect, monetize and publish information about the citizenry without our permission.

Additionally, many users report inappropriate and misleading billing practices and charging credit cards in ways the user claims not to have anticipated.

The companies are frequently the subject of legal drama and some have been pursued by the FTC. In 2014, InstantCheckmate settled charges that they [sold consumer data in violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act](https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2014/04/two-data-brokers-settle-ftc-charges-they-sold-consumer-data).

More resources about Instant Checkmate

* [https://www.truthinadvertising.org/instant-checkmate/](https://www.truthinadvertising.org/instant-checkmate/)
* [https://www.consumeraffairs.com/retail/instantcheckmatecom.html](https://www.consumeraffairs.com/retail/instantcheckmatecom.html)
* [https://www.bbb.org/us/ca/san-diego/profile/internet-service/instant-checkmate-inc-1126-172003447](https://www.bbb.org/us/ca/san-diego/profile/internet-service/instant-checkmate-inc-1126-172003447)
* [https://www.ripoffreport.com/reports/specific\_search/instant-checkmate](https://www.ripoffreport.com/reports/specific_search/instant-checkmate)
* [https://www.scambook.com/company/view/14960/InstantCheckMatecom](https://www.scambook.com/company/view/14960/InstantCheckMatecom)

I'm fond of the internet and I have strong opinions about what it should be and it what it shouldn't be. As a web developer, I'm one of the people that gets to shape it. I also get to share my opinions with my colleagues, and that's what I'm doing.

I'll leave it at that, and prompt you to decide how you feel about the information. I understand and concede the merit of many arguments that would say "no big deal," or "unrelated to the nice open source package."

I also want to offer that I understand (too well) that everyone needs a job and sometimes good developers who can make good open source packages just wind up working at less than glamorous companies. I appreciate the work that all open source developers contribute to the world, and I don't make any assumption about the character of the package developers themselves.

As a courtesy, I reached out to the Voyager team a few days ago and gave them a head's up that I intended to post this.

Edit: /u/devdojo from the Voyager team has responded in [this comment](https://www.reddit.com/r/laravel/comments/cm7i4j/laravel_voyager_published_by_shady_company/ew1vb8v/).

13 thoughts on “Laravel Voyager published by shady company”

  1. Good job for bringing this up.

    Laravel should definitely shy away from these shady people.

    I would completely be for Taylor exercising his trademark rights.

    Reply
  2. I agree with you on a moral level but at the same time, Voyager is free as in beer and also free as in open. It’s using the MIT license one of the most open licenses possible.

    From what I can tell they are not profiting from this in any way it’s completely there for the community to use and benefit from.

    Collecting and selling data is nothing new, Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, and others are built on (or starting to move towards) selling your data, most of which isn’t ‘public’ data either, it’s what they’ve recorded you doing around the web.

    Doe’s that mean you don’t use those platforms? Does that mean you don’t use their opensource tools like React, VSCode, GO? Does this mean you don’t use their proprietary software/platforms like Windows, AWS, Google search?

    Reply
  3. TL;DR version is company that participates in a shady business practices releases open-source software that anyone can modify and freely fork.

    It’s an ad hominem argument if anything that has very little to do with the merits of the software itself.

    Reply
  4. Completely agree with this. Even if it wasn’t for these shady practices though, Voyager is absolutely trash, and built for people scared of the terminal and the full freedom Laravel provides.

    Reply
  5. I don’t disagree with the fact that they conduct shady business practices, but I think we should realize that releasing Voyager probably has little if not nothing to do with the shady management of the company. It is probably just a project of some of the engineers at the company who are building what they are told and doing the best with what they have.

    While I don’t think it’s always ok to create things regardless of how they are being used, you could play this game with almost any big company out there.

    Reply
  6. Hey there, my name is Tony and I’m the original creator of [Voyager](https://laravelvoyager.com/). I want to start off by saying that you are entitled to your own opinion and I hope that my response will help you understand more about myself and about the company. I appreciate you bringing this up because it will give me the opportunity to tell you more about us.

    First I want to talk about [The Control Group](https://thecontrolgroup.com/) itself, then I will discuss Instant Checkmate and Truthfinder.

    I’ve been doing web development for 15+ years. Throughout my career I’ve had my fair share of working at “Shady Companies.” I remember the days when developers were treated like cogs in a marketing/business world.

    I started working with The Control Group about five years ago and I still remember my first few weeks: I was treated like a king. We had a fully stocked kitchen, catered lunches, game room, and a positive / collaborative team. The owners of the company knew that treating developers well was the key to getting maximum output from the team.

    Throughout the years I got to learn some cool technologies and grow as a developer. We worked with all kinds of languages from Python, Node, Go, and even Laravel. Laravel was my favorite since I had a strong past in working with PHP.

    About 2+ years ago I was given a task to create an easy way for us to move our publisher sites away from WordPress so I decided to create Voyager. I was amazed at the feedback it received when I released it as Open Source. Voyager got a couple thousand stars on Github within the first few weeks. Funny enough it actually got a lot of backlash from people on Reddit talking about how much trash it was. Haters gonna hate, right?

    Voyager has now been taken on by many maintainers and many contributors. It’s kind of taken a life of its own, which is great to see!

    If you choose not to use Voyager based on the company and people that created it, that’s simply your choice. By releasing Voyager as Open Source I wanted to give back to the dev community and I wanted it to gain some cool new features along the way.

    Next, I want to address Instant Checkmate and TruthFinder.

    These are the products that we built from the ground up and we are very proud of them. Back when we first started, there wasn’t a single place to access already-public records about a person. You could scour the internet and possibly find bits and pieces of information on a person you were searching for, or possibly request the information from government agencies. But it was time consuming and expensive. This was the problem we were trying to solve. We wanted a single place someone could visit to find out information on anyone. We used API’s from third-party services and pulled data from public resources to aggregate a report. To cover our server costs, third-party services, and continual development of our products, we charge customers a monthly cost.

    Now, we have gone through some growing pains (who hasn’t). I won’t deny that we used to market the product very aggressively in order to help launch the company. But now we focus on keeping our existing customers happy as much, if not more, than converting new customers. We test everything to see how we can get the best user experience possible. And honestly, it’s been rewarding to hear from people who say that Instant Checkmate or TruthFinder have enhanced their lives in some way. We constantly get stories from customers who say that our products have helped them reunite with a long lost relative or discover a hidden criminal record from someone they were dating.

    We have grown a lot and learned a lot together, and every member of our team is very proud of the products that we have created.

    I’m a huge fan of The Control Group and a huge fan of Laravel. I understand that in Open Source you can’t make everyone happy. It’s the nature of business, when you’re on top you’re going to have people who love you and people who hate you.

    In fact the creator of Laravel, Taylor Otwell, has to deal with so much negative scrutiny it’s kind of ridiculous. He released the greatest Open Source framework available and he still gets attacked on twitter when he tries to sell something he created.

    I hope that you do understand where I am coming from and I hope this response gives you a little more insight into our company. The Control Group and the owners are actually really good people and I feel so fortunate to work with such a great company where I get to create cool stuff like Voyager.

    Reply
  7. Oh boy is there a lot of assumptions being made here. Posts like these can seriously harm companies with no ill-intentions.

    Reply
  8. I’m honestly a little disappointed with the post. As others have already pointed out, Voyager is virtually disconnected from TheControlGroup, only being connected by name at this point. /u/devdojo is the original creator, and has been mostly hands-off for the last couple years, allowing me and the other couple maintainers run with it. He and the rest of TCG have never attempted to exert authority over the project in any way, negative or otherwise, so we’re very much free and open source. As others have said, free as in beer, AND free as in open.

    Tony left a very thoughtful post a few hours ago, so I’ll defer to that for any further comments.

    Reply
  9. Sites like legal checkmate, while legal, simply shouldn’t exist on the web. Data is often incorrect and there’s no intention in maintaining its viability. I group them with the mugshot people.

    Reply

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