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.