December 27, 2004 in Business

Cell-phone directory causes alarm – needlessly

Knight Ridder

SAN JOSE, Calif. — There’s been plenty of confusion — and a lot of misinformation — recently as an e-mail works its way around the Internet warning people about a directory of cell-phone numbers that will be released to telemarketers on Jan. 1.

Just so you know: The e-mail information is absolutely false.

What’s true: a Portland, Ore., company called Qsent will start compiling cell-phone numbers for a 411 directory system on Jan. 1.

But telemarketers will not have access to the database of cell-phone numbers. There is no deadline to register your number on the federal government’s do-not-call list. And your name and number will not be added to the database unless you want it to be — and even then, it won’t be listed in a book anywhere and certainly won’t be handed over to telemarketers, said Greg Keene, chief privacy officer for Qsent.

“It’s an opt-in model,” Keene said, referring to the marketing practice where consumers ask to participate instead of being forced. “If they do nothing, they don’t participate. And even if they choose to participate, they’ll never appear in a printed directory.”

The cell-phone directory, called the Wireless 411 database, is backed by all the major cell-phone carriers except Verizon Wireless. It intends to incorporate cell-phone numbers into the standard 411 service, which is associated with both landline and cell phones.

Those behind Wireless 411 say there’s a growing number of people who have dumped landline phones for cell phones and a large group of small-business operators — from plumbers to real estate agents — who use only cell phones to communicate with their customers.

Those are the people who will want to be included in the 411 database, said Kathleen Pierz, managing partner and analyst with the Pierz Group in Michigan.

“Everybody can think of a time when we wish we had someone’s cell-phone number,” Pierz said.

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