Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Protecting Consumer Privacy

In my last post, I blogged about the efforts of Verizon Wireless to stop a company from mining the Internet and other sources to get wireless phone numbers and other private info. The company's aim was to create a profitable mobile phone directory.

Verizon Wireless is staying true to the privacy statement found in their wireless contract or Terms and Conditions. Let me post that lovely statement from the wireless contract of the "most reliable wireless network" again,
We don't publish directories of our customers' phone numbers. We don't provide them to third parties for listing in directories either.

Well, I found an update to this consumer privacy crusade of Verizon and other consumer rights groups. This article reported that after receiving numerous complaints, the controversial company, Intelius Inc. has made a decision to shut down the service. This is certainly good news for consumers who want privacy protection from their wireless contracts, cellphone network and consumer rights activists.

Intelius Inc. made a mistake by launching their online directory assistance for cell-phone numbers. Their website claims to have 90 million numbers in its database and for $15 each, interested can have as many numbers as they want.

In the face of stiff resistance, Intelius had no choice but to give up a potentially lucrative service. Liz Murray, a spokesperson for the besieged company explained her company's decision in this statement,
"As a company, we have strived to be at the forefront of innovation. We realize that in this instance we may have been ahead of our time. Wireless carriers attempted to develop a similar product a few years ago and found the market wasn’t ready; it’s clear that the market is still not ready. We always listen carefully to our customers, which is why we recently discontinued our cellphone directory.”
Well, I agree with them that the market isn't ready yet for this service. Many attempts to create a similar directory have failed in the past. For instance, CTIA — The Wireless Association unsuccessfully attempted to create a cell-phone directory. However, opposition from consumers and legislators forced them to abandon their project.

But then again, who would want to have their privacy violated. If a company offers personal information without getting the consent from private citizens. This unethical method will always be assailed by consumer rights groups, legislators and other concerned individuals.

I hope that legislators can successfully pass a law that would prohibit the marketing of cellphone numbers without consumer consent. Wireless contracts and carriers may not be able to provide complete protection for their subscribers. Perhaps this may also be a chance for you to find out if you are being protected by your wireless network.I value my privacy and knowing that my carrier is doing its best to protect me is very reassuring.

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