Friday, August 17, 2007

Worst Case Scenario (Part 2)

So, here we go again with companies looking to make a buck at the cost of our own privacy and potentially our own safety. This company, Intelius is selling personal cell phone numbers, with addresses, and sometimes with family member’s names for $15.00. Apparently, they’re compiling cell phone numbers from business to government agencies with some 90 million in hand already and an addition of another 70 million in the next few days.

If that isn’t bad enough, there are hundreds of companies called data brokers that will, for a little over $100 on the low end, sell to a consumer the last 100 out-going calls from a cell phone. All the consumer needs is the name, address, and phone number, available above for $15, and he or she can know who you last called!

This is absolutely ridiculous. Intelius says, “Oh, you’ll be able to check on your teen, see who they’re calling, or you can do a background check on a nanny.” I would think that if I wanted to see who my teen is calling, I would use the itemized statement I get from my cell phone provider. If there’s suspicion that they’re up to something illegal, I can always take the numbers to the police. As for checking on a nanny, there are background check services that are legal and licensed that I could use. I would be more concerned with the fact that over 62% of 11-14 year-olds have cell phones and granting pedophiles access to their personal information is irresponsible.

Data brokers claim things like, “Think your spouse is cheating? See who they’ve called!”

This type of psychological marketing is weak, deceptive, and outrageous. You’re trying to appeal to my sense of protection for my children or my marriage by violating my privacy? Give me a break!

Illinois has implemented some legal protection preventing people from “pre-texting” or pretending to be the account holder of the cell phone account with the intention of gaining access to cell phone records. Missouri has followed suit as have California, New Jersey, Washington, and perhaps others.

None the less, there is a family in Washington that has changed their cell phones and numbers three times and still have a stalker harassing them, their family, and friends. In some instances, hijacking the teenage daughter’s cell phone and using it to send threatening text messages or voice mails.

What about in the context of national security? Are we handing terrorists an invitation to call, threaten, and stalk military members and their families? This isn’t unheard of. It happened in the United Kingdom just last year and to families of Danish Troops just this month!

I think it is time to start writing letters and making phone calls to our representatives and senators demanding action protecting our privacy.

Personal Cell Phone Numbers Are Only a Click Away
Web site Sells Cell Phone Numbers and Other Personal Information

(ABC News)
From World News with Charles Gibson
Aug. 14, 2007

Home phone numbers have been available to the public for a long time, so many Americans treasure the fact that their cell numbers can be kept private -- or so they think. Now, all it takes is a few bucks and Internet access to find tens of millions of personal cell phone numbers.

A Web site named Intelius has created a clearinghouse of cell phone numbers that can be purchased online for $15 each. Its source -- every business and company you've ever provided with your personal information.

"We do pay for the data, everything from government agencies to third party companies, where we compile a lot of this information together," said Ed Peterson, vice president of sales and marketing at Intelius.

Intelius already has 90 million cell phone numbers, and it's adding 70 million more in the coming days, along with the addresses that go with them.

"Frankly, it's the Wild West when it comes to our personal information," said Avivah Litan, director of research at Gartner Inc.

Intelius claims it is providing a public service that will help parents track down who is calling their children, or families checking on a nanny, but many individuals are upset that their information can be bought online.

ABC's David Muir attempted to buy the records of three people he approached today in New York City, and they were shocked to learn he'd purchased every cell phone number and address they ever had.

Intelius even had the number of a minor.

"That's my son … he's 14," said Winsome Jones.

"You can't even assume that minors have privacy rights. Maybe this is a wake-up call once we see congressmen's cell phone numbers on the Internet. Maybe they'll finally start acting, but the data brokers are not regulated," Lihtan said. "No one's looking over their shoulder and saying you can or cannot do this."

And until Congress takes action, Intelius' business of selling personal information is perfectly legal.

If you want to opt-out of having your information listed in Intelius' database, log-on to OPT OUT [(Scully's Moulder comment): I should point out that Intelius states that their Opt Out option is only temporary as they are constantly updating their records requiring you to opt out frequently.]

Personal Cell Phone Numbers Are Only a Click Away
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Attila The Mom said...

Very very scary. Thanks for posting this.

Scully's Moulder said...

I couldn't help but address this. I have a teen, a "tween" and a wife in Iraq. I don't need my stuff spread all over the place and neither does anyone else. It's a real shame that people like this want to make a buck at someone else's expense.

Anonymous said...

hey, nice blog!