Cell phone numbers won't automatically be public

| 12/13/2004

With the impending rollout of a national 411 directory of cell phone numbers, concern over privacy issues has hit a new high.

Six national wireless companies – AT&T, AllTel, Cingular, Nextel, Sprint PCS and T-Mobile – have hired Qsent Inc. to produce a wireless 411 service due to launch sometime in 2005.

What numbers will or won’t be listed in the directory is apparently such a hot topic that Qsent has a page dedicated to that very question on its Web site.

In a nutshell, Qsent says it is an “opt-in” service. Qsent specifically points out that “if a consumer chooses not to participate, or does nothing, their information will not be included in the service.”

The directory “will not exist in print, electronically or on the Internet, in whole or in part,” according to Qsent. The only way listings may be accessed is through real-time, single use by the 411-operator service center.

Since the announcement of the impending cell phone directory, concern about the possible use of it by telemarketers has begun to circulate via chain e-mails.

Many of the e-mails suggest cell phone users “must” add their cell phone numbers to the National Do Not Call list before Jan. 1, 2005, to avoid being bombarded with cell-phone solicitors.

Snopes.com, the urban legend reference Web site, puts this rumor to rest with its “Celling Your Soul” report.

Despite Qsent’s assurances to privacy, the Snopes report points out that many people simply don’t trust the wireless 411 consortium to keep its promises. But there really isn’t a big need to run for the cover of the National Do Not Call Registry.

“Adding one’s cell phone number to the National Do Not Call Registry (even if currently unnecessary) won’t likely have any adverse effect, but customers should be aware of exactly what that action will or will not accomplish,” the Snopes report stated.

Jumping on the National Do Not Call Registry, at this point, is pretty much unnecessary. It won’t keep your number out of the directory – remember you have to opt in. And since cell numbers cannot be accessed in bulk, just one call at a time, the directory is unlikely to fall into the evil clutches of telemarketers.

But for anyone wanting to go the extra mile and make sure their number is not included – back to that whole trust thing – the National Do Not Call Registry has accepted personal cell phone and home phone number registrations since it opened for consumer registrations in June 2003. There is no deadline to register a home or cell phone number on the Registry.

To register a telephone number on the National Do Not Call Registry, or to file a complaint, consumers should visit donotcall.gov or call 1-888-382-1222. Consumers registering a phone number online will be asked to provide a valid e-mail address to which a confirmation of the registration will be sent. A registration is not complete until the consumer clicks on the link in the e-mail. Consumers registering by phone must call from the phone number they wish to register.

– By Jami Jones