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Once You’re In an Online Phone Directory, Tough Getting Out

Most of us value our privacy and assume that it will be respected. But in today’s world of data sharing, privacy is something which you cannot take for granted. Just try typing your name or phone number into an online directory – you will be surprised how much information about you is openly and easily available to anyone who wants access.

Before the era of internet, the only thorough Phone Directory was the White Pages. Things changed when the internet spread rapidly through homes worldwide. The White and Yellow Pages tried to keep their phone number listings private but a court decision in the 90s said that they did not have copyright for a phone number list since there was no creative work involved. Thus, anyone could copy the White or Yellow Pages (which was easy once databases became digitized) and make their own online phone directory. Even if you opt out of the White Pages, your information still could show up in one of these online phone directories.

When it comes to cell phone numbers, we get a bit more privacy. Laws state that you cannot make a directory of cell phone numbers which can be looked up by a person’s name. The only exception is if people opt-in to the cell phone directory. There are some online cell directories which work with this opt-in policy, but (as expected) they don’t have many names and there is a lot of inaccurate information. The privacy rules go out the window when it comes to reverse cell phone directory searches though. If you already have a number, then that number’s owner can’t expect any privacy.

The online phone directories, such as reverse cell lookup services, get their information from a large range of sources like credit agencies, polling lists, and sales lists. If you have ever had to put your phone number down on a signup form and didn’t carefully read the privacy rules, then your number could have been sold to a reverse phone directory online. Once one of these cell directories has a hold of your number, just about every other directory is also going to get the information.

Unfortunately, there is very little you can do to get yourself out of an online phone directory once you are there. You can make individual requests to each of the websites to remove your information – but this will take a lot of time since there are so many different reverse cell directories to go through (and new ones springing up all the time). If you are lucky enough to not show up in the phone directories online and want to keep it that way, then be extremely cautious with giving out your phone number. Always make sure to read the privacy policy on websites that ask for your number and get yourself added to the national Do Not Call list.

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