Kudos to Verizon and Phonebooks.com for Deleting Cell Phone Numbers from Directory

July 20, 2011

In a significant win for mobile consumer’s privacy, Verizon wireless has worked with Phonebooks.com to remove cell phone numbers from the internet phone directory company’s service. Phonebooks.com has been the only to offer free cell phone number information.

Verizon has a history of actively opposing publication of mobile phone numbers, and this collaboration with Phonebooks.com to take a joint stance supporting consumer privacy is fantastic news for users.

From the joint press release:

“Even if a consumer’s mobile number is obtained lawfully by Phonebooks.com, we believe that Verizon Wireless customers should have the opportunity to provide informed consent before it is published,” said Steve Zipperstein, vice president of external affairs for Verizon Wireless. “We are pleased that the leadership team at Phonebooks.com agrees that the safety and privacy of all consumers is a high priority.”

“Our wireless phone database was provided at no charge, to benefit the public and assist people in finding the information they were looking for,” said Aaron Rosenthal, president of Phonebooks.com. “While anyone, at any time, was free to remove themselves from this directory, we understand that some people may have specific privacy concerns in regard to their cell phone number. The feedback we’ve received has been overwhelmingly positive. However, the concerned minority cannot be overlooked.”

To help raise awareness regarding this and the ways cell phone numbers are collected, Phonebooks.com has launched a ‘Question & Answer’ website, CellPhoneNumber.com. The site allows visitors to ask a cell phone related question; it also maintains an ongoing poll to help gauge the public’s interest in the existence of a cellular directory.

Step up and vote NO.

That last sentence in the press release should give you cause for concern – as should the current voting tally. If 90% of respondents continue to want a cell phone number directory Phonebooks.com may change their position.

Your job is to make sure your voice is heard. If you want to protect your privacy take 4 seconds RIGHT NOW to vote. http://www.cellphonenumber.com/. Then take 4 more seconds to virally ask all your friends/tweeps/associates/family, etc. to do the same.

Linda


Privacy Policy Changes – Some Companies Get Notification Right

July 7, 2011

It’s time to demand honest, clear notices that come well in advance of Privacy Policy changes to give consumers an opportunity to opt out, protest, or take some other course of action.

Facebook users learned last week that their privacy had received another ‘haircut’. This latest round of Privacy Policy changes gives Facebook the right to sell your information to other companies in a clear profit-trumps-privacy equation.

Adding insult to injury, the company chose to minimize the press coverage – and number of consumers who would hear of the changes – by delaying their notice until after press deadlines on a Friday – for more information on the latest changes see Facebook privacy changes would share user data with other sites.

These practices are unacceptable. It’s time to demand a change.

Most companies, including flagships Microsoft, AOL, and Yahoo!, go to great lengths to protect your privacy, have clearly understandable policies that don’t change every time you turn around, and clearly respect their users.

Geni.com, a genealogy site, goes even further and embodies the proactive approach to policy changes. Not only do they make their privacy practices clear on their website, the following email was just sent to their users giving very clear, advance notice about changes to their privacy policy. It’s so impressive, I’ve attached the entire email; it is well worth your attention. Click the image to see in full size

Geni.com site richly deserves the accolades they’ve received from PC Magazine, TIME, and CNET for being a great website. Their advance notification of policy changes to each and every member (and they strengthened their privacy protections – what a thought!) has now earned them a far humbler, but rarely given, award – the LOOKBOTHWAYS seal of approval. Congratulations Geni on being a shining example of transparency and consumer respect.

We encourage all companies with a web presence to employ consumer safety and privacy best practices in every aspect of their development, testing, support, and within their consumer services.”

As a percentage of companies, those who exploit consumers are but a fraction, but the tremendous reach of Facebook, and others with less than stellar track records like Google, means that most of the US population  (and a significant number of global users) are adversely impacted by their actions.

Sending users an email notification of any upcoming policy changes is easy and ethical. Sites already store every registered user’s email address, and email provides an excellent opportunity to clearly explain changes – including graphic representations of complex concepts – and provide links to where they can learn more, or ask questions.

The Radicati Group estimated that the number of emails sent per day in 2008 were around 210 billion, so for most sites sending an email to all their users would barely be a blip. But for huge sites that feel sending several hundred million emails would be prohibitive, there is a clear alternative; use a notification screen in front of every user (once per user) at least one week in advance of the changes that requires their action, or the action of their parent, before proceeding. For those who did not log on during the notification week (or longer time period), the notification should be changed to inform them of the changes that did occur so they can take action at that time.

Will providing clear notification annoy some users? Of course, so do seatbelts but they protect consumers from clear risks.

You have the right to an informed online experience. You have the right to set your own terms for your online experience. You have the right to expect online products and services to guard your safety and privacy. Learn more about your rights in Your Internet Safety and Privacy Bill of Rights.

As consumers you can—and should—vote with your feet if the experience you’re having on a service doesn’t meet your expectations. Even Facebook has had to beat a retreat when enough consumers rioted.

Linda


Best Privacy policy I’ve Seen Yet

November 8, 2010

When a company sets a high standard for privacy and clarity, it’s worth noting. I was just asked to reregister with Totally Free Conference Calls the other day, and checked their privacy policy to be sure there had been no changes.

The way Totally Free Conference Calls have written their policy is just fabulous; it really gives consumers the confidence and clarity you need to know how your information is treated.  Here it is:

Privacy Policy. Don’t worry – we respect your privacy and will not, under any circumstances share your information with any 3rd party because we hate spam just as much as you do.

While not all Privacy Policies can be this simple – some companies do share information, and therefore need to explain how and what they share – the level of clarity exemplified here can be achieved if companies care to do so.

What really strikes me is how this privacy policy clarity compares to the Terms of Use language on websites that I wrote about earlier this week titled C’mon! Match Terms of Use Text to Users’ Comprehension Level

If you can’t easily understand a site’s privacy policy, let them know – you may even want to send them this example.

Linda


What’s the Privacy Policy of the Non-Profits You Support?

November 5, 2010

Scrutinizing the privacy policies of social networks and businesses that collect any of your information (this includes both online and brick-and-mortar businesses) should by now be a standard practice for every consumer who does not want their personal information to be sold, resold, traded, or rented.

Less known is that you should also be reviewing the privacy practices of every nonprofit group you support as it is a fairly common practice for nonprofits to rent or trade the names and addresses of their donors with other organizations.

It used to be that the worst that could happen is you’d get a bunch of other groups asking you to donate, but those halcyon days are long gone. Now this information may be added to the ever growing data file about you and can expose you to serious risks.

Donate to a beer fest?  It might affect the cost of your auto insurance. Donate to the local symphony? Watch out for that customized scam. And so on.

While you can’t control an organizations use of this practice, you can control whether  you support non-profits that do exploit your information in this manner.

Linda


Privacy Policy Changes – Some Companies Get Notification Right

April 9, 2010

It’s time to demand honest, clear notices that come well in advance of Privacy Policy changes to give consumers an opportunity to opt out, protest, or take some other course of action.

Facebook users learned last week that their privacy had received another ‘haircut’. This latest round of Privacy Policy changes gives Facebook the right to sell your information to other companies in a clear profit-trumps-privacy equation.

Adding insult to injury, the company chose to minimize the press coverage – and number of consumers who would hear of the changes – by delaying their notice until after press deadlines on a Friday – for more information on the latest changes see Facebook privacy changes would share user data with other sites.

These practices are unacceptable. It’s time to demand a change.

Most companies, including flagships Microsoft, AOL, and Yahoo!, go to great lengths to protect your privacy, have clearly understandable policies that don’t change every time you turn around, and clearly respect their users.

Geni.com, a genealogy site, goes even further and embodies the proactive approach to policy changes. Not only do they make their privacy practices clear on their website, the following email was just sent to their users giving very clear, advance notice about changes to their privacy policy. It’s so impressive, I’ve attached the entire email; it is well worth your attention. Click the image to see in full size

Geni.com site richly deserves the accolades they’ve received from PC Magazine, TIME, and CNET for being a great website. Their advance notification of policy changes to each and every member (and they strengthened their privacy protections – what a thought!) has now earned them a far humbler, but rarely given, award – the LOOKBOTHWAYS seal of approval. Congratulations Geni on being a shining example of transparency and consumer respect.

We encourage all companies with a web presence to employ consumer safety and privacy best practices in every aspect of their development, testing, support, and within their consumer services.”

As a percentage of companies, those who exploit consumers are but a fraction, but the tremendous reach of Facebook, and others with less than stellar track records like Google, means that most of the US population  (and a significant number of global users) are adversely impacted by their actions.

Sending users an email notification of any upcoming policy changes is easy and ethical. Sites already store every registered user’s email address, and email provides an excellent opportunity to clearly explain changes – including graphic representations of complex concepts – and provide links to where they can learn more, or ask questions.

The Radicati Group estimated that the number of emails sent per day in 2008 were around 210 billion, so for most sites sending an email to all their users would barely be a blip. But for huge sites that feel sending several hundred million emails would be prohibitive, there is a clear alternative; use a notification screen in front of every user (once per user) at least one week in advance of the changes that requires their action, or the action of their parent, before proceeding. For those who did not log on during the notification week (or longer time period), the notification should be changed to inform them of the changes that did occur so they can take action at that time.

Will providing clear notification annoy some users? Of course, so do seatbelts but they protect consumers from clear risks.

You have the right to an informed online experience. You have the right to set your own terms for your online experience. You have the right to expect online products and services to guard your safety and privacy. Learn more about your rights in Your Internet Safety and Privacy Bill of Rights.

As consumers you can—and should—vote with your feet if the experience you’re having on a service doesn’t meet your expectations. Even Facebook has had to beat a retreat when enough consumers rioted.

Linda