[Dave Birch] I had a new phone line added to my home office recently: I find about one message a day there from companies offering to consolidate my debts into a single loan with one easy monthly payment and suggesting that a new law means that I may not have to repay my bank loans or credit card debts at all. Since there are very few people who know my home office number, I assume that either Virgin sold the new number details to some loan sharks or that they are simply autodialling all numbers except those registered with the telephone preference service (TPS). (To be fair, my home number is registered with the TPS and it never gets these calls, so the system clearly works, so instead of moaning about it on a blog I really should call the TPS again).

The TPS is a practical “sharp end” privacy issue. Another case study. A mobile phone number directory was launched in the UK. I immediately wondered how to get off of it. So I asked for advice on Twitter, and the posse (I prefer that to “mob”) told me to text “E” to 118 800, which I did. You could also opt out online, which so many people did that the system crashed.

But what’s interesting is how violently people now feel about their privacy. In an age when many are apparently happy to share intimate details of their lives on social networks – even shots of their husbands in their swimming trunks – it seems that we feel our mobile numbers are uniquely private.

[From BBC – dot.life: 118800 and a web revolution]

Ultimately, as you may remember, the uproar continued until…

the controversial mobile phone directory service 118 800 had been suspended.

[From Datonomy: UK mobile subscribers revolt against new directory]

So why were people so upset? Why don’t they do what I do? I’m not that bothered about the unsolicited calls to my home office number because all calls are screened: I don’t pick up the phone unless the number is recognised, and if it isn’t recognised I always let it go to answering machine. I never answer a call on my mobile phone unless the caller ID is displayed from my contact book: if you’re not in my contact book, you have to leave a voicemail. This works fine. But the issue isn’t the practicality, it’s the principle. As Robin Wilton wrote at the time

The issue here, to my mind, is one of informed consent. I can honestly claim that I have never knowingly disclosed my mobile number for the purpose of having it listed in a directory enquiries service.

[From Racingsnake – the blog of Future Identity: Mobile Directory Enquiries still broken]

Now I am theoretically ex-directory. (And to be fair, to date, I haven’t received any unsolicited commercial calls on my mobile.) The database of 42 million mobile phone numbers still remains, however.

Does it really matter? Well, it probably does, because if the database exists then the temptation to abuse it will remain overwhelming to some.

“You can buy any list you want of people who subscribe to the do-not-call registry online. The whole of Toronto costs you 50 bucks for 600,000 names,” Bruce Cran, president of the CAC, said in a telephone interview yesterday.

“That’s just perfect for any telemarketer, because these are good names which they would otherwise have to pay money for to verify. In addition to that, there’s no index list of cell phone numbers that you can get. However, people were encouraged to put their cell phone numbers on there as well.”

[From globeandmail.com: Fraudsters abusing do-not-call list]

What? So the database of people who have registered under “do not call” legislation provides a perfect database for telemarketers and what’s more there was no database of mobile phone numbers that telemarketers could use until the “do not call” service encouraged people to register their mobile phone numbers as well as their landlines, thus creating a list that could be abused by telemarketers. An everyday story of unexpected consequences in the world of identity.

These opinions are my own (I think) and are presented solely in my capacity as an interested member of the general public [posted with ecto]

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