Archive for the 'Wireless 411' Category

Another free 411 directory service

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Microsoft announced today the launch of its 411 directory assistance service for mobile devices, this coming shortly after Google’s free DA service last week.

The Microsoft service (1-800-555-TELLM) is accessible from any phone, and is based on the technology from its recent acquisition of TellMe.  The MS service also gives individuals the ability to get their directory results via SMS on certain phones.  Thus the key free 411 services include:

  • Jingle:  800-FREE-411
  • Google: 800-GOOG-411
  • Microsoft: 800-555-TELLM
  • InFreeDA:  800-411-METRO
  • 800-411-SAVE

Information on Wireless 411

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The Senate version of the Wireless 411 Privacy Act:

http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/cpquery/?&db_id=cp108&r_n=sr423.108&sel=TOC_17433

Also information from the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse on the latest:

http://www.privacyrights.org/ar/wireless411PR.htm

What happened to Wireless 411?

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The latest rumor on the launch of a wireless 411 service in the US is that the service is not moving forward.  The problem from day one has been the view by the public, press and government of the lack of privacy to the consumer with such a service.  This lack of privacy is certainly real.  Consumers consider their mobile devices as the ‘last bastion’ of privacy, and are loathed when they get calls from people they don’t know.   Why would I list my name and mobile number in the directory?  I certainly would not, and I’m from the industry.  Even with opt-in, not publishing the number in alternative databases and not charging not to be listed, these feactures do not provide nearly enough privacy for the individual. 

In addition, the issue of successful connection is a real dilemma since only a handful of people would ever list themselves in such a fashion.  And with only a small percentage of individuals in the directory, the chance of success from a caller’s perspective to get the person one is looking for is so small, the telcos will certainly get a backlash of people complaining about not finding the right individual.

The general problem is that you can’t force a traditional model (directory assistance “DA” to fixed line devices) on a new one (DA to mobile phones).  Part of the issues is the perception of the service, given that people automatically think the service will be the same as the traditional one.  While I continue to believe there is alternative privacy technologies that can hide the phone number to contextual listings beyond ‘name and address’, technology alone is not going to solve the problem.

The service, if one ever succeeds in the US, has to be driven, in many respects, by the consumer themselves.  We see the beginnings of new models every day, in new listings being created by services such as Match.com, Myspace where identities are created, communication is enabled, yet privacy in left intact for individuals.  Let consumers drive how they are listed and what devices they want to associate with those listings within the groups/communities they belong in.