back to article Data watchdog clears mobile phone directory

The UK data watchdog has given the green light to a controversial directory of millions of mobile phone numbers, which launches next week. News of the 118800 mobile directory raised privacy worries today, but the Information Commissioner's Office said it was satisfied it would comply with the law. Start up firm Connectivity …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Violation of their privacy right

    "Brokers who trade such lists argue they are compiled from customers who agree to have their information used for marketing purposes."

    No the customer agreed to let X use their phone number for marketing purposes. This is to define X as anyone and everyone for any purpose. How could they have agreed to let their phone number be used for a directory service that did not exist at the time? They could not.

    The data watchdog is, as ever, a proxy permission giver. Giving permission to share information that the person themselves does not want shared.

    You did not give them permission to add your name to a public directory, the data watchdog is doing that as a proxy for you. As though his choice overrules your choice. He should not be doing that.

    If you want to giver permission then they could let you add your phone number to the site, however who would do that? If they wanted someone to have their telephone number, they would give it to them, not give it to a site for all the world to gain access.

    The data watchdog should step in, or rather the PRIVACY watchdog should start getting injunctions.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Information Commissioner's Office = corporate lapdog - roll over and do as you're told

  3. Matt

    Mobile Phorm?

    Looks like by not opting into ANY marketing and being on both the TPS and MPS list means that I can still be put on this list.

    And OPT OUT only, hmmm

    Something smells like Phorm

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    opt out?

    so how do I opt out?

  5. john loader

    How to deal with them

    As you have to accept the call I suggest torrents of abuse if a human connects the call or hang up every time if automatic. Hopefully these people will get fed up and go into a more ethical occupation

  6. Anonymous Coward

    Marketing purposes?

    At no point in my life was it ever explained to me that marketing purposes meant "bugging me to call people I didn't give my phone number to specifically so they couldn't get in touch with me."

    Given that mine and my colleagues' work mobiles have been included on the database, it would appear that vodafone have served up their records to these guys. It seems without even checking if in fact the information they're handing over was provided by the person it applies to (and thus that they have the persons consent to do it). I never even got to see the application form let alone tick the little opt-out box as it's a work mobile, and the same applies to my colleagues. Yet somehow we're assumed to have given consent? Methinks NOT.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton


    It's not just me then?

    How the hell can I consent for data to be used for marketing purposes (and I dispute that I ever did), only to have it's use in a publicly accessible telephone directory service blessed by our rather spine lacking ICO?

    If a friend wants to call me (and my friends already have my number), how is either that call or the subsequent call from 118800 connected in any way to "marketing purposes"?


    Paris, because unlike Connectivity, I'd be careful to make sure I had consent...

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I want to opt out. I am not going to provide any details like name or number because you cannot be trusted not to add them. Therefore, you need to block all numbers until you get an active opt-in.

  9. Chloe Cresswell Silver badge


    Well, I have 4 mobile numbers atm, so I wonder which they would give out?

    My laptop's 3g card has a number, but it's not going to have a call. My backup phone I check rarely.

    My main phone and my employee's phone might appear..

    Is that £1 a go? Nice money maker for them I guess.. I wonder if they'll give refunds for wrong numbers?

  10. John Dougald McCallum

    Telephone Preference Service

    Is a load of crap I signed up to it several months ago and I still get unsolicited calls from call centers you can only complain to them IF you have the number of the company calling you most use private numbers or withhold it by the simple expedient of adding 147 before dialing your number

  11. ratbert

    Old marketing data

    They've got me at an address from about 5 years ago, so i doubt anyone would find me anyway :)

    Text 'E' to 118800 - pretty easy to opt out, though they should still cross-reference TPS and remove all of those numbers from their DB...

  12. Seanmon


    So what number shows up on my handset when the call gets connected? If it's 118800 (or any other consistent number or range of numbers), it is not simply a case of having your operator block this number? Enough people doing it and that's the business model down the drain.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Call them on the freephone no to remove your details, then submit a claim to bill them for your time

    Just like DesG on this thread:

    Make them pay!

  14. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Ooops ...

    I'm sure that opens the door to some fun and games ( aka abuse ). I'm tempted to register my details and give their phone number. Shouldn't be too hard to populate the database with random phone numbers using another database of names :-)

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up


    Why not just accept the call and then either (a) put the phone in your pocket or (b) pretend that you not the John Smith that they are after. Either way the people paying for the service will soon get pissed off and stop paying.

  16. Someone

    In the directory through others’ carelessness?

    While Reg readers may have mentioned the Telephone Preference Service, it doesn’t apply to Connectivity’s service. If you look at number seven on the TPS website FAQ, it reads, “Companies are therefore, not obliged to screen [SMS] against TPS because they should already have established prior consent.”

    The biggest problem I have is that I know companies can be careless, when it comes to whether or not they have consent. I’ve gone into an office of a national, supposedly trustworthy, company, with a printout of my online application in hand. I showed them that I had opted out of all marketing shenanigans. They looked me up on the computer and told me that I was fully opted in.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Up yours 118800 and ICO

    I always make sure I read the small print to make sure I don't get any marketing calls and crap through the post, yet after checking myself - I'm listed and have to wait four weeks to be removed.

    I'm tempted to buy a pay as you go sim card and not f**king register my info at all!! or get one of those redirect numbers to make sure I can't be listed as it won't be a real mobile number!!

    I'm so f**king miffed at what the ICO have said - they're such a joke!!!

  18. Anonymous Coward


    I wouldn't be surprised if their website gets DDOSed not long after they've opened for business.

    Funnily enough, they appear to use Messagelabs to filter their email - so they obviously don't like spam.

    Interesting that they have removed the "about us" page - never fear, the company officers can be found in Google's cache:

    Chris Burke Chairman

    Raj Raithatha (Chief Executive Officer)

    Adrian Jones Chief Financial Officer & Head of Regulatory Affairs

    Shona Forster Chief Marketing Officer

    I wonder if they like getting texts from assorted marketing weasels.

  19. ThinkingOutLoud
    Paris Hilton


    So, does this mean I can put a call direct to her mobile? I don't care if she rejects it, I just want her to hear my name even if she blows me off (I wish).

    There, that's my Paris link and I can happily retreat back into obscurity...

  20. Anonymous Coward

    How to stop this shit...

    Ive just phoned em up on the freephone number, given them my mobile number, a false name, false address and had my details removed! So, suggest people do the same and fill the database with false names, addresses and other details...

    But why is this shit opt-out!!!!!

    Joke, cos it is really innit.....

  21. raving angry loony


    It's a fucking protection racket. "Give us money or we'll sell you out". Opt-out should be illegal.

  22. This post has been deleted by its author

  23. ted frater

    Pretending to be a phone answering dog

    Ive been exdir on my BT land line, and am also on the phone preference no calling list.

    Ive had occasional marketing calls from overseas, and BT say they cannot stop these.

    As yet none on my mobile payg sim.

    however ~Ive had fun with the odd call on my land line, I pretend im a phone answering dog, and bark very loudly, then shout in a womans high pitched voice to my dog to put the phone down. It really pisses them off.

    othertimes im very rude in a german voice.

    Have fun at their expense!! I say.

  24. John Woods Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Use technology

    I have my mobe configured to divert calls from numbers not in my phone book directly to voicemail without ringing - it's easy and I recommend it.

    If you ring my home phone you will get a message that says you will need an access code to get through ... "You will shortly be given the access code, however, please note that if you are calling from any organisation other than an employer of someone who lives here, use of the following access code will be considered an offence under the UK Computer Misuse Act (1990). Ok, if you're sure ... the access code is 8362"

    Only when you put in the access code does my handset actually ring. The number of unsolicited calls I have had to take since I got this system in place is zero.

    An even easier strategy is to record the dah dah dee tone for number unobtainable on your answering machine ... that'll cause most predictive diallers to drop the call.

  25. Dave


    Nowhere did I ever agree to have my phone number in a directory, and my landline is also ex-directory. If I can find one, I invariably select the 'do not use this number for marketing' option.

    What they should do is text everyone on the database to inform them of their entry on it and provide a free number to text a response to opt in/out/whatever. That way, if you don't get a text you're probably still safe, and if you do, then you know they've already got your details so actively opting out doesn't reveal anything they don't know.

  26. Dave

    @John Dougald McCallum

    My solution to withheld numbers is called the answerphone. Telesales invariably don't leave a message, so I don't even need to call them back. If they do leave a message I still don't have to call them back.

    However, I hope the 118800 mob use a valid CLI (118800, perhaps?) and that anyone who discovers what it is spreads it around real quick so we all know what to ignore.

  27. 3x2

    It's that phrase again

    "Opting out of the service should be made as easy as possible (...) "

    If I want your service I will contact you. (it's called opt-in)

    The only company that can currently link my number to any personal details is O2. Now if I find my details on this or any similar "service" my next call will be to cancel O2 - simple.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    The first????

    i dont think so.

    I searched google mobile phone directory enquires and found mobile118 that is much better. Why is it better? Well for a start you have to 'opt in' so it means you want to join.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Paris because..

    .. like the ICO she can't say no either.

    "Protecting your data" my arse.


  30. M Gale


    Apparently when you enter a number (I tried a random mobile with a Mr Rick Astley as the name and an address not far along up my street so I know it's valid), it sends a 5 digit code to the mobile number as a text.

    Any idea if that's the only thing it sends? I can see it being truly amusing if it sends details of the registration along with the code. "Hello, a request was made to register your mobile number under the name 'Hi buddy, it's me SomeHackerFriend, coming out later?' The authorization code is 12345."

    Even if it's only the code that gets sent, I could imagine some evil /b/tard and a quick script sending millions of random requests out to random numbers in very short order.

    Though of course I wouldn't suggest doing that. Oh no.

    Goggles because 118800 must be blind to not see this.

  31. Anonymous Coward

    Government/Police Snoop

    So Connectivity gets the watchdog OK to compile and use a database of databases, containing names, addresses, phone numbers and who knows what else. Including unregistered payg and exdirectory numbers, perhaps even deleted entries.

    "An organisation" then approaches them to purchase/maintain a current database copy, agreeing not to encroach on their market.

    Possible uses; database comparisons eg compare to electoral register, number of occupants at an address, tracking, name spelling (pseudonyms), contacts, historical area connections, internet/email use, excuse for intrusion, multitude of others - some only the future will tell.

    Underhand snooping on the cheap without debate.

  32. EvilGav

    From the T's & C's

    "If you wish to obtain a copy of the information we hold on you, please include your full name & address, a copy of your passport, driving license, utility bill or bank statement for identification purposes and enclose a cheque made payable to Connectivity Limited for £10. Where appropriate you can request that we correct or enhance your information or you can become ex-directory (see section 8 below)."


    "You can become ex-directory by texting the letter ‘E’ to 118800 from the mobile phone that you want to be made ex-directory. Standard network charges apply. Or you can call us on 118 800 or 0800 138 6263 from the phone you want to be made ex-directory. But remember that 0800 calls will be charged by your mobile phone company. The first time 118 800 contacts you please note that you will be sent an SMS reminding you about how to become ex-directory. Please allow 4 weeks for your details to be made ex-directory"

    I don't want to become ex-directory, I simply don't want to be anywhere on the database - as much as anything else, i've had my mobile number for over a decade now (moved from different suppliers via the gift of the PAC code over the years).

    However, as per poster above, I tried to look myself up on the on-line directory - it said there were multiple instances of me. Which is surprising, since I have a very English surname and the number of people in Scotland with the same name is less than a dozen (at last count) - almost exclusively my family, none of whom live in the same town as me.

    If it cant find me, someone who has lived at the same address for 10+ years and has had the same mobile number for a similar length of time, registered at the same address, what hope is there of this being any use what-so-ever ? Or is it more accurate when you phone in and start paying ?

  33. Richard Andrew Jefferies
    Thumb Down

    Should be opt in only

    We must pressurise Ofcom and other relevant bodies for this to be opt in only. If I run a small business like a plumber I might welcome it but otherwise no. It must be my initial deicion. Opt out doesn't work. Whenever i ask to be taken off lists or register with the preference service I STILL get loads of junk calls and texts.

    Also, if I'm roaming abroad I pay for the privilege of saying "p*** ***" to unwelcome calls and texts.

  34. Andy Hill

    Under 18 phones

    I heard on the news last night that 118800 had assured the regulator that children's phone numbers would not be made available. This is simply not going to work as any contracted mobile will be in ther parents name as under 18's can't use DD. This should be a real concern.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Interesting data

    I pay for all the phones in my house yet it has me listed at an address 5 years ago and the missus listed at the current address.

    The postcode search on there site doesnt work and its also almost certainly data skimming as we know that no one in the town has the same name as my other half but it returns multiple until you put more details in.

    The problem is that most of us end up consenting to "x and its partners" to receive stuff, only to find they add a company like this as a "partner"

    If they text you when your overseas without first telling you that you are in the database then send them a bill for your time and the cost of the text.

    Paris, a true consenting adult

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Just one example

    A few years ago, the Nationwide Building Society lost a load of customers' private details. Apparently, they were on a dataset that was "only used for marketing purposes" and when the proverbial hit the fan they wrote to me to tell be that my details had been lost.

    That was quite interesting, because I had ALWAYS ticked the boxes to request that my details not be used for marketing purposes. This being only one company, I could be quite sure about that.

    "Oh, sorry", they said.

    I no longer have an account with them.

    I think that illustrates quite clearly how companies treat "marketing" as an excuse to do whatever they want with your data. Telling them not to do it has no effect whatever. They can always claim it was a mistake. Still, at least this shady practice is getting some light shone on it at last.

  37. Fred

    @John Woods

    Spot on!

    Most mobiles have an incoming call filter feature.

    If in doubt, block them out...

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton


    Well not sure how effective this service is..on a random selection of myself, friends and family consisting of a sample size of about 6 (so highly conclusive I'm sure) then I got no matches whatsoever. Given that a good number of people's phones are 'company mobiles' then I don't really see how they'll relate xyz ltd to Mr. Joe Bloggs, unless mr joe bloggs as 'ticked add me to marketing spam'

    Still there's more fun to be had on their website..they're cheapskates and want user submitted pictures of people using mobiles for their promotional pictures, rather than stock shots. Still a quick google and it's not hard to find pictures of ladies using mobile phones to advertise channels on the upper reaches of the sky box...I'm sure there's some Paris photos that would do similarly..submit your own favourite photos here:

    Lastly they're in breach of the law that says business websites must clearly list company name, address, reg no etc - who do we complain to about that?

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