Monday, February 4, 2008

Mobile Phone Directories and Consumer Privacy

While I was surfing the net, my eyes caught an interesting Mobileburn article. It was about Verizon Wireless condemning data mining of wireless phone numbers in order to some sort of a directory.

The article indicated that a certain company is making plans to sell the wireless phone numbers of private citizens to interested parties. The company made it known through their website that it will offer “unlisted or unpublished” numbers and will identify the wireless service provider of consumers' for a fee. And how will this company gather the numbers and info of private citizens?

Apparently, the company will mine the information about a consumer's personal number and carrier from the World-Wide-Web, personal Web pages and other sources. The controversial aspect of their method is that they do not have the consent to gather personal information of consumers who own the rights.

How about you? Do you feel that that data mining of mobile phone numbers should be illegal? For my part, I don't think that this method should be allowed. I wouldn't want my cellphone number and other personal information to be distributed to people I do not know. The possibility of being bombarded by ads and other offers is also not an idea that I would welcome.

For these reasons, I am glad that Verizon Wireless called on that company to halt the mining and sale of wireless consumers' personal information. This wireless network prides it self in having a long-standing policy of keeping its customers’ wireless numbers private. The wireless contract or Term and condition of Verizon Wireless clearly states that,
"We don't publish directories of our customers' phone numbers. We don't provide them to third parties for listing in directories either."
This statement from the carrier's wireless contract indicates that they are aware that customers consider their wireless phone numbers as private. They also feel that wireless phones should be free from intrusions from telemarketers and other unsolicited calls and messages.

Let me give you other wireless contracts or terms and conditions that have policies against mobile phone directories and third parties. AT&T's wireless contract emphasizes that,
AT&T IS NOT A PUBLISHER OF THIRD-PARTY INFORMATION OR CONTENT AND IS NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR ANY OPINIONS, ADVICE, STATEMENTS, OR OTHER INFORMATION, SERVICES OR GOODS PROVIDED BY THIRD PARTIES. Third-party content or service providers may impose additional charges. Policies regarding intellectual property, privacy and other policies may differ among AT&T's content or service providers and you are bound by such policies when you visit their respective sites or use their services. It is your responsibility to read the rules or service agreements of each content provider or service provider. Any information you involuntarily or voluntarily provide third parties is governed by their policies.
AT&T's terms and conditions do not openly state that they are against data mining of wireless phone numbers in order to some sort of a directory. They do make it clear that they are not involved with companies or any party that may attempt to do so. This carrier also puts the responsibility on their customers. I have to say that I prefer Verizon's stand on this issue. Anyway, let's move on to T-Mobile.

T-Mobile's terms and conditions states that,
We may list your name, address, and Number in a published directory with your consent. For more information on our privacy policies, please see our privacy notice at The way third parties handle and use your personal information is governed by their policies and we are not responsible for their policies, or their compliance with them.
T-Mobile has a softer stance on mobile phone directories. However, it will not publish your information without your consent. They also warn their customers that they have no power over third parties so customers have to exercise caution.

Lastly, here is US Cellular's stand on directories as stated in their Privacy Policy,
We will never disclose your CPNI or Personal Information to any third party other than in connection with collecting delinquent amounts owed us such as to a collection agency or credit bureau. U.S. Cellular® does not publish or support wireless directories of our customer phone numbers nor do we make this information available to third parties for listing in public directories. We may release CPNI and Personal Information about you or your account when necessary or appropriate in special circumstances such as when we, in good faith, believe that disclosure is required by a subpoena or other lawful process to enforce our Customer Service Agreement or protect the rights, property, or safety of U.S. Cellular®, our customers, or others. Disclosure may also be required in connection with a sale, purchase, merger, reorganization, liquidation, or dissolution involving U.S. Cellular®.
Like Verizon Wireless, US Cellular stress that they do not support wireless directories that contain the personal information of their clients. They also assure their customers that they will not make their information available to third parties for listing in public directories.

I guess that's all I can post today. I am oppose to companies that gather information about wireless customers in unethical ways. If you are also concerned about keeping your personal info private, then I suggest that you look into your wireless contract and find out how your privacy is being safeguarded.

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