A certain someone who is a near and dear friend, whom I shall leave nameless for the moment, passed along an email that is spreading the above bit of hysteria far and wide. I thought I should take a moment to dispel some of it.
DID YOU KNOW :
Subject: Is your telephone # listed??
If you go to Google and type in your telephone number (555-555-5555) in the search window it will automatically pull up directions to your house—If your phone number is listed it will show your name and address and give two map options, Yahoo and MapQuest.
Any person wishing to discover the physical location of a phone number, be it a home or business address, could use this feature to locate a physical street address, and receive directions on how to get there from anywhere in the country. In the age of the internet communication we all know the dangers of this—for adults and CHILDREN! [GASP!! NOT THE CHILDREN!! – ed.]
Google has made available an option that will allow anyone to REMOVE their telephone number from the database that is linked to the mapping feature.
1. Check if your number is listed by entering your full telephone number separated by dashes (e.g. 555-555-5555) in the search window.
2. If the number appears in the mapping database, an icon resembling a telephone will appear next to the first or second entry on the results page. Clicking on this icon will take you to a page containing a description of the service, and a link to request your number be removed from the database. So far unlisted numbers and cell phone numbers, do not show up.
While this is true, Google does list off addresses to phone numbers you input and provide a handy-dandy link to a map of the location, folks need to keep two relevant facts in mind: A) This isn’t new. Google’s been doing this for the last year or so. B) A whole lot of other websites have been doing it for even longer.
All they’ve done is combine a white pages phone number lookup with a MapQuest like service in one step. As the email states they do offer a link to remove your listing. If it makes you feel better to ask them to remove it, go ahead, but all that’ll do is stop Google from listing your info.
For example I went to 411.com and clicked on “White Pages” and entered my phone number. Guess what showed up. My name, address, etc. Take that info to MapQuest and type it in and I’ve got a map. Then there’s White Pages.com where I put in my phone number and got my name and address along with an option to “map this address.” Then there’s Switchboard.com which also has an option to map.
You get the idea…
The point being that before everyone gets all outraged about this you should be certain you have a firm handle on just what the problem really is. One of the best ways to avoid this would be to move and then make sure when you sign up for new phone service to pay the extra money to keep it unlisted seeing as all of these services make use of what is, technically, publicly available information. If it’s already been listed someplace then chances are even if you did go around to each one of the, literally, hundreds of sites offering this service and asked each one of them to remove your listing and all of them actually bothered to do so, the Internet has a long memory and somewhere, someplace out there it’s probably cached and will be available to those determined enough to look for it for years to come. In other words, if your address shows up when your type in your phone number at Google then the damage has already been done. Also try to keep in mind that this trick only works if the person already knows your phone number and if they know enough of your name and address to look up the phone number then they already don’t need your phone number to map out where you live.
A little critical thought would go a long way toward reducing the amount of panic among some folks.