When a press release dropping into our inbox yesterday regarding a new mobile phone directory service, we wondered how long it would be until there was a backlash.It didn't take long. This morning, the Daily Mail (who else) is reporting privacy campaigners are up in arms about the new service, citing it as a "clear invasion of privacy".Even the politicians are getting involved, with Nigel Evans the Conservative chairman of the All Party Group on ID Fraud stating: "People feel that their mobile phone number is very private to them and should not be traded for profit".While certainly a valid point, it is worth noting that the 118800 service won't work like a regular directory service. You won't actually be able to get the number of the hot girl down the street and call her yourself, 118800 will act as an intermediary – making the call and asking the receiver if the caller can be connected. Still, this could get very frustrating when you get contacted by people you hardly know (or don't want to know), plus who's to say people won't lie about their identity in order to get connected?Connectivity, the company behind the whole affair, is rumoured to have bought around 16 million mobile numbers from market research companies – making up for around 40% of mobile numbers in the UK – and it's even had the approval of the Office of Information Commission so it's all above board and legit.
However, mobile operator O2 has been in contact with Stuff.tv to let us know it has refused to participate in the 118800 directory, with a spokesperson stating: "Connectivity approached O2 some time ago to request customers’ details and we declined to participate, despite the threat of litigation. Our experience is that our customers treat their number personally and like to decide for themselves who they give it to."
Of course, this doesn't mean O2 customers are safe from anyone else that may have already sold their number. Anyone worried about their number being on the database can opt out by texting E to 118800, whereas anyone desperate to make sure they are on it can also volunteer for their details to be included. As for charges, it seems 118800 is going to profit nicely from our details, charging customers 69p connection plus 14p a minute thereafter. While it might be good for long lost friends and relatives to find each other, this service could certainly prove to be a right royal pain in the backside for the rest of us. Let us know your thoughts on it all below.