Information InFiltration. Club Med for the People.

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[- No more phone numbers on beer mats
By TreborScholz, Section whatever...
Posted on Wed Sep 3rd, 2003 at 09:31:05 PM EURODISCORDIA TIME
Privacy A Total Illusion?


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Earlier this year we had several discussions about privacy on Discordia. Since then many disillusioned emails about Google's recent addition of a reverse phone book feature to their search engine circulated. The company previously perceived as benevolent and helpful is now viewed with anger and resentment by many.

For those living in the United States with a listed phone number a Google search of their phone number will indeed result in name and home address and a map quest link. It is fairly easy to opt-out and remove your phone number from Google's listing. At the same time there are similar sites that offer this same service and Google lists some of them (Anywho,,, Reverse Phone Directory,, and Smart Pages. From the classic phone book to the reverse phonebook it is only a small step and I'm not sure what causes the uproar. When calling information you can get these same details. All who retrieve your home address in the phone book could then type it into mapquest also. Google and many other sites make this number-address finding easier and the site has a lot of visibility. Is that what causes the outrage?

How does Google's reverse phone book measure up, for instance, to the Total Information Act? In many bodegas the driver's license of younger customers is taken and swiped through a machine thereby retrieving much more personal data than the age information needed to make a legal sale of spirits or tobacco. Firms like Abika or offer everything from email reverse phonebooks, background checks, civil records and more for about $20.
One thing is clear- no more phone numbers on beer matts... Or what do you think?

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No more phone numbers on beer mats | 1 comments
[new] Perceived danger is real danger (Avg. Score: none / Raters: 0) (#1)
by Jeffrey Skoller on Mon Sep 1st, 2003 at 06:53:07 PM EURODISCORDIA TIME
(User Info)

Hi Trebor

A qucik response to your comments:

There is something that feels destabilizing and threatening about random invasions of privacy especially when it appears so effortless and instantaneous as with this new phone book technology. What is so interesting about the responses to the Google reverse phone list is to see how gendered the response has been. Women have responded overwhelmingly that they find it horrifying, threatening and immediately proclaim that they will remove their names. While men on the other hand, have tended to respond in mitigating ways saying that in actuality the same information can always be accessed in other ways making the issue of increased danger questionable. But then many women have always felt that the public listing of their names and addresses is unsafe and often insist that phone books use only the initial for their first name or don't print their addresses in the books or pay for an unlisted number. So clearly the issue is not so much that this information can be obtained other ways, but that its the ease with which the technology allows such information to be obtained that makes one feel even more vulnerable and makes the public sphere an even more alienated space in which one can feel even more out of control.

The ways in which the interface of phone and computer technology is working to make people feel more or less safe in their homes and makes it harder to control one's own privacy is really emotionally destabilizing. I feel it every time I get a phone solicitation--whether its Citi Bank offering a credit card deal or an cop trying to intimidate me into giving money to the Policemen's benevolent association by telling me he knows where I live. There is also actually a difference between name based phone books and reverse phone books in which some-one can randomly punch in a set of numbers or find a phone number on a list and then instantly get a name and address. In name based phone books if you only have a number its harder to get access to a name and address. A map with a star marking the spot where one lives that appears instantly is the figuration of that sense of vulnerability that many people--women in particular feel in their daily lives.

Comparative privacy invasions--young people in bodegas buying beer versus being randomly Googled--is not the issue. It seems in both cases the sense of security in people's daily lives is compromised which makes being alive in this moment that much more difficult. In that sense, perceived danger versus real danger is not a distinction that is particularly meaningful.

All the best,

Jeffrey Skoller

No more phone numbers on beer mats | 1 comments

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