Rory Cellan-Jones

118800 and a web revolution

  • Rory Cellan-Jones
  • 14 Jul 09, 12:23 GMT

Has a popular revolt done for 118800? The controversial mobile phone directory launched last month, but has struggled to convince the great British public that it's a good idea to have your mobile number available for people to look up.

118800 website screen grabFor days now the website has been down, and the service has been unavailable. And that's apparently all due to people power - a wave of angry users trying to get their numbers removed from the site has been too big for the company's systems to cope.

After the BBC's excellent Working Lunch programme gave prolonged coverage to the story before the launch, various e-mails began circulating, warning people about it.

Here's one:

"Maybe you have heard about this but early next week all UK mobiles will be on a directory which will mean that anyone will be able to access the numbers. It is easy to unsubscribe but it must be done before the beginning of next week to make sure that you are ex directory. We have all unsubscribed and you may want to suggest it to all your friends and family who have UK mobiles or they could be swamped by unsolicited messages and calls. Removal is recommended by the BBC - see link below.
The Directory of Mobile Phone numbers goes live next week.
All numbers including those belonging to children will be open to cold calling and the general abuse that less scrupulous tele-sales people subject us too.

Now there are a number of inaccuracies in this and other e-mails warning about 118800. For one thing, "all UK mobiles" are not on the directory - when the service was live I found it just about impossible to find anyone, and even the company behind it only claims it has around a third of all UK mobile numbers.

For another, the service involves sending texts to people whose numbers are sought out by users, asking whether they want to take a call, rather than "cold calling".

And the BBC is not recommending removal - that's not our job - though we have told people how to get their names deleted if they so wish.

Still, the campaign against the service has apparently gone viral, and that makes it very difficult for the business to get any more positive marketing message out - especially when its website is down.

But what's interesting is how violently people now feel about their privacy. In an age when many are apparently happy to share intimate details of their lives on social networks - even shots of their husbands in their swimming trunks - it seems that we feel our mobile numbers are uniquely private.

You can see the change in attitudes reflected in what's happened with the fixed line directory. Twenty years ago, being "ex-directory" meant being part of a rather exclusive club, but BT tells me that around 50% of people now choose not to have their numbers listed.

Why? Well maybe it's not paranoia about privacy, but sheer irritation at the wave of tele-marketing - callers telling you "we are in your area fitting PVC windows - would you like a free trial", or cold calls from automated systems telling you that you've won a cruise.

It's the direct marketing industry which has been the source of many of the numbers on the lists acquired by Connectivity, 118800's owners. But maybe it's their tactics that have made the idea of the service so unattractive to so many users.


  • Comment number 1.

    In an age when many are apparently happy to share intimate details of their lives on social networks - even shots of their husbands in their swimming trunks - it seems that we feel our mobile numbers are uniquely private.

    Thats because people see networking sites as a 'free' service (I know they have adverts and such but they are easily avoidable) that benifits the people who choose to be on it.

    this 118800 service is looking to profit from our details without our permission.
    If I got a 50% cut of what they made from people asking for my number it would be more acceptable.

  • Comment number 2.

    I have just watched the CEO of Connectivity on Working Lunch - what a poor piece of journalism. Why didn't the journalists ask specific questions such as relating the statements of the Information Commissioner:
    We will continue to be in contact with Connectivity to establish precisely how it is complying with the Data Protection Act (DPA) and Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR) in relation to the numbers included in the directory. We made it absolutely clear to Connectivity that it should not use numbers where there is any doubt about whether the consumer is happy for their information to be used. We are asking Connectivity precisely how they have met this obligation.

    We will be monitoring Connectivity and will consider using our regulatory powers if the service fails to meet its obligations under the DPA and PECR. If an individual is concerned about how their personal information is treated by any organisation, including Connectivity, they can complain to the ICO and we will look into it.

    So why didn't Declan ask what the company had done to ensure people were happy to be in the directory? What privacy notices were presented to individuals advising them in a transparent manner of the intention to place their details in a directory, and giving people the means to indicate whether they agreed (as required under UK data privacy law)

    Both the EC and OFCOM conducted research and mobile users made it clear they view their mobile numbers as private and do not want an entry into a directory.

    Underwhelmed by working lunch!

  • Comment number 3.

    I frankly don't see what the fuss is about - 118800 appear to have a procedure which answers privacy concerns and gives people benefits but very little downside.

    All these emails going round are just mass hysteria from people who should know better and obviously have never taken the trouble to actually look at 118800's website to see what actually happens.

    And why you should be so smug about Working Lunch's 'excellent' program when it was simply another instance of journalistic scaremongering is beyond me.

    And to answer #2 - anyone's phone number that might appear in 118800 was already in a directory somewhere anyway, or it wouldn't have been used by them. And (while some collectors of such data surely have questionable practices) in most cases the person concerned will at some point have ticked a box to say that their number could be kept and used.

    And no, I have no connection whatsoever with 118800.

  • Comment number 4.

    I think you're spot on in your penultimate paragraph.

    My response when people go crazy about not putting your phone number anywhere people can view it has always been to quote Tim from The Office: "what are [they] going to do, PHONE ME?"

    Shock horror........

    However, if I were to have constant irritating phone calls offering me 10 carrots for the price of 9, or a 4% saving on hair insurance, then I might indeed get a bit irritated. Irritated, but not threatened.

    Someone knowing my phone number is hardly like them having a house key, knowing my secret PIN, memorable date and mother's maiden name, is it?

  • Comment number 5.

    What is the point of this ridiculous "service"? It's painfully obvious that no-one actually wants it, otherwise why the rush to have our details removed? ANY form of cold-calling should be outlawed, whether it's done directly, like most cowboys do, or through proxy services like 118800. If your product is that good, you shouldn't need to stoop to such underhand, disreputable tactics to acquire business.

  • Comment number 6.

    re post 3. How do you know the data obtained by 118800 were already in a directory. The company claims it bought them from market research companies?

    What's all the fuss about? It's about a person's right to control their data ..... this service does not provide transparency or control. It raises very serious questions about the trade in peoples personal data. With regards their website .. it's down .. so how can people exercise their rights?

    It's not scaremongering at all .. if you want your details made public then fine .. most people dont.

    I thought 118800 got off lightly in the working lunch programme

  • Comment number 7.

    I phoned these people up on Day One and gave them a complete rollicking !!

    I said I wanted my number off there for privacy reasons and spend 10 minutes trying to explain to the woman that NO I WOULD NOT GIVE MY NAME AND ADDRESS as this would have defeated the object.

    I and many many millions of others are fed up with our personal information being passed around by subterfuge and fatuous 'opt-out' policies backed up 8-point font terms and conditions with the key clause buried on page 94..

    We did for PHORM, we can do the same for this, and wrest back control to people power..

  • Comment number 8.

    People choose to put information on Facebook, so that's different to a company doing it without asking.

    Also, how do you know that the people who put photos on the web publically are the same people wanting their numbers removed? Chances are, the people who want their numbers removed are also careful about what they post (note also that Facebook makes it easy to restrict who can see the information - by default, photos are not public to everyone, IIRC).

  • Comment number 9.

    All telephone directories should be opt-in, not opt-out. And I say that as a former award-winning Direct Marketing practitioner!

    People rarely buy things just because someone ambushed them with an offer they weren't expecting. If they do, it's often because they were vulnerable in some way, rather than because the offer perfectly matched a previously unfelt-need by the customer.

    Just because you 'can' doesn't mean you automatically 'should'.

  • Comment number 10.

    There's a bit of a difference between uploading a photo of yourself (or your F&F) to a social network (which will oftenbut granted not alwaysbe restricted to friends-only viewing), and having your contact details made available, directly or indirectly, without you explicitly consenting.

    Now, it's true that they're not publishing your contact details, because they act as a wall between you and the person attempting to contact you, but it generally stands to reason that if you want somebody to have your contact details, you'll give them to themyou don't need to be second-guessed by a third party seeking to make a profit.

    Moreover, it's not entirely clear where a lot of the numbers have come from. While many forms will say Tick here if you'd prefer us not to share your details with selected partners, this is in almost every case within the context of marketing and offers: making use of those details for some other purpose (especially one which is directly profit-making) is effectively misrepresentative.

  • Comment number 11.

    My view and the reason I've deliberately submitted my number is that anyone who's willing to pay a quid to get my approval to allow them to phone me must be either a) loaded b) stupid and/or c) desperate to contact me.

  • Comment number 12.

    I am sorry, I fail to understand what the fuss is about.

    My landline number is listed in the BT Phone Book, for the convenience of those who wish to contact me and don't know / lost my number. The same could be argued for my mobile.

    As you have control over who contacts you it is probably better and safer than BT's Phone Book.

  • Comment number 13.

    I don't want my mobile number given out, as people are always trying to find out who I am!

    Virgilio Anderson

  • Comment number 14.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 15.

    Manage your digital footprint carefully, in all aspects. I use a number of different providers for different media, ranging from Usenet to web fora, under different IDs and where necessary I also make use of proxy services to ensure that my privacy is cloaked.
    This is not because I browse dubious sites/Usenet fora (etcetera) in any salacious sense of the word, but mostly stimulated due to having an obsessive follower (stalker) over a decade, having been online for nearly 2 decades.
    Similarly I rip out RFID tags - which once led to the wrongful prosecution of a US fireman for a crime he did not commit, where RFID tags supposedly located him at the scene of crime - pay cash instead of using a card, and so on. Also, whilst we're aware that shredding waste is vital, people still have too much faith in bog standard shredders. The Vietnamese reassembled acres of US documents that had been shredded, and I have doubts about the security of cross cut shredders, given the modern techniques being employed in Germany to reassemble Stasi documents.
    You could make a very long list of modern intrusions into personal life, and a long list of reasons for controlling them carefully, ranging from state snooping, through obsessive followers, to the media/their use of private detectivers to interfere with your life. They don't only interfere with the rich and famous you know.

  • Comment number 16.

    Definite fail potential here, I find it can take several minutes for a text message to get to me, and occasionally I don't see one for a couple of hours - do they keep a caller holding on while waiting for a response from the texted party? If so, what happens if I just ignore their texts?

    As best I could check, I'm not on their service, so I'll be waiting for proof that they've got my number before giving it to them to get it removed from their service.

  • Comment number 17.

    What are RFID tags ?

  • Comment number 18.

    I am, by BT omission, ex directory for my landline but I still get crap marketing calls in spite of signing up for the Telephone Preference Service. The last thing I want on my mobile is the same thing and I might be charged for it. As far as I am concerned my mobile is for me to contact the people I want to where ever I am in the world, or my nearest and dearest to find me. (Grumpy Old Man Aged 65)

  • Comment number 19.

    Such a shame, because OPT-OUT system was so overloaded I had to make repeated requests to the their server; I do hope this didn't cause them otherwise unnecessary time and expense... as it did me to OPT-OUT!.

  • Comment number 20.

    My mother is having a problem, a severe problem, with a member of our family at this time, I won't go into details but it's getting near the point that legal action over harrassment will be taken by my mother against the person in our family and what is going on is affecting her quite badly.

    This mobile phone directory gives that person another way of getting hold of contact details for my mother and bothering her.

    And as a non-techy sort of person who just about knows how to operate her mobile I doubt my mother is even aware that her mobile phone number is now out there in the big wide world.

    I'm sorry but to the people who are saying "what's the problem" I say there is a big problem, people probably don't even realise their details are being put out for anyone to get hold of in this way.

    There should be more information about this given to people, not just some website that some people probably aren't aware of or even have access to.

  • Comment number 21.

    I just love people power and don't know why we don't do it more often. Big business thinks it can walk over all of us but if only we were wise and not all so self centered, and worked together for the collective good, we could have far more control of our lives. The Internet gives us that power.
    I am sick and tired of people phoning me on the home phone, offering me this or that. Its a total insult because if I want double glazing I am perfectly capable of finding out all the relevant information.
    The telesales industry have beautifully scored an own goal with this one because no-one wants it. I hope its not the last time we use people power to tell big business to go and run.
    Once upon a time 'the customer was always right' In Japan customer service is top of their priorities so maybe time for a rethink by all those who need our patronage?
    At the end of the day we do have the choice to spend our money where WE choose and they should all remember that.

  • Comment number 22.

    ravenmorpheus, I must agree. Although you don't need the internet to opt-out, the general assumption is that people have internet access, which as we know is certainly not true, otherwise why was Digital Britain commissioned? That isn't the main point though. Some people, as you have mentioned do not even know that their number has is on the directory, even some tech savvy people and even then some none tech savvy people don't know how to opt-out.

    Personally, I think that all options should be legally be required to be opt-in. Companies would also put the option in larger font in order entice people, but this would surely act as as assurance to people that they haven't been opted-in (if that is what they wish). The terms terms to the opt-in should also be in large font and easy to find (e.g. what the company can do with the information, such as selling it on (which surely should never be their's to sell unless you agree and receive some profit). On an even more sidetracked note cold calling should just be made illegal and be punishable with a huge fine, although it's probably almost impossible to catch the culprits (is that the right word?).

  • Comment number 23.

    perhaps people should read this letter from the Assistant Information Commissioner Phil Jones to the MP John F Spellar concerning ICO's involvement with Connectivity. Once you've read the article perhaps then ask the Information Commissioner Christopher Graham why his office has failed so miserably to ensure an appropriate level of consumer protection! Ask why it has taken the ICO over two years of engaging with Connectivity to decide that it now needs evidence of compliance! or [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 24.

    I am sorry ravenmorpheus that your mother is having problems. However, as I understand it the company will not give out her number without her permission.

    However, if it makes you feel more secure, you could surely opt-out on her behalf when the system is up and running again.

  • Comment number 25.

    My fixed line has been ex-directory for over 20 years, and I didn't have a problem with cold calls. This "marketing" ploy started about 10 years ago, and despite registering with TPS to exclude these types of calls, I still got that annoying voice telling me I'd won a VIP vacation to Florida!
    When I purchased a mobile I certainly had no intention of the world being able to look me up.
    I and a lot of my friends only retain a landline so that we can access broadband, and with the advent of caller display, if the phone rings and it says details withheld - the handset is picked up and put down again. If any forms etc require a phone number - I add the fixed number(as I can screen those calls with caller display), and exclude the mobile. This way the only calls I get on the mobile are from people I want to talk to.
    There must be lots of people who now ignore their fixed lines, so the marketing industry must be suffering. Of course if they get access to our mobiles then it's game on again. I'm presently waiting patiently for the 118800 site to come back on line - so that I can ensure I can get my number removed.

  • Comment number 26.


    this is totally different from a landline directory!!!!

    I dont know how many of you have kids, but the main use of mobiles is for PICTURES and TEXTS. Nobody will spend time cold-calling by ringing up!!

    And I really DO want to make sure that the phones in my household are not being sent images or text messages from third parties, for obvious reasons.


  • Comment number 27.

    "I am sorry ravenmorpheus that your mother is having problems. However, as I understand it the company will not give out her number without her permission.

    However, if it makes you feel more secure, you could surely opt-out on her behalf when the system is up and running again."


    Why should it be left to me to do something that she is quite capable of doing herself?

    If there was more of a campaign of information about this then it wouldn't be down to those of us in the know.

    It's not a matter of "feeling secure", the fact is that business has decided they want a mobile phone directory and the government has allowed them to create one.

    At no point was the general public consulted about it and it's an opt-out "service" not an opt-in service.

    This is worse than the issues recently surrounding Google maps as everyone who owns and purchases a mobile phone is affected.

    And I very much doubt if anyone will be asked if they give permission to give out their telephone number either, no-one was asked if they wanted a central mobile phone number directory created!

  • Comment number 28.

    I actually work for the call centre and have been answering 118800 calls. The past week has been hell for all the staff here. We have been let down by connectivities incompetance, their website down, we have been unable to take ex directory requests and have beared the brunt of the public anger.

    I disagree with the service, i wish it was an opt in service, however it wouldnt have been financially viable if it wasnt opt out, according to connectivity.

    Post number 7. lordBeddGelert - Its not the operators fault, we are only doing our job at the end of the day, and we get this service forced upon us, and most of us are almost at breaking point! I cannot wait to see the back of this service. All its brought is trouble on us.

  • Comment number 29.

    There are many ways that our personal data gets passed on without our consent.

    1. I burn anything that arrives with my name/address on it.
    2. My phone numbers are personal and are given out on a need to know basis. They are signed up to TPS so as to avoid the cold calling. In fact I remember a previous number kept receiving "upgrade now" text messages. Stop did not work so my replies became more abusive as my contract drew to an end.
    3. Where I live is my business and I give it out again to those that I trust.

    What I want to know is:-

    1. How did this company get my phone number(s) (not had chance to contact them as the site was down)?
    2. As I never gave permission for it to be sold on, WHO has broken the data protection act?
    3. What confidence is there that it stops here or will my number get passed around the world for a quick buck?
    4. Where will it end with an unusual name, phone number, address, etc in this wired world before my ID is stolen again?

    I work in a profession where security is paramount therefore passwords are tightly constructed, mother's maiden name isn't used anywhere, only trusted people get home and phone details, anything linked to me is never used and no-one knows any user names or passwords.

    I do not care if they text me or phone me wrt contacts - I'll report them to the TPS and OFCOM every time


  • Comment number 30.

    I love all the people who have rushed to take their number off determined not to receive unsolicited calls from strangers when the service offers nothing of the sort.

    And has anyone thought about the opt out process?

    You have to put your full details in to opt out. The database of numbers will have been mostly acquired from people who have purchased something and left it as a contact number somewherer and hidden within the terms and conditions (which almost no one reads fully) will be the permission to pass it on.

    Now, it is generally agreed that the accuracy of the database acquired by 118800 is not certain with much expected to be out of date. By opting out you are providing an ability for the database to be rated for accuracy and thus could be aiding its sale to another party which will not be as caring about preventing strangers from getting your number.

    Again, the uneducated and down right incorrect hysteria which has blown up around this amuses me no end. I have talked to many at work who were determined to opt out until I explained how it worked and they decided that if someone really did want to contact them in that fashion it was not the end of the world.

  • Comment number 31.

    Replying to RussellLiverpool, my landline has also been ex-directory ever since my mother (the previous occupant of my house) died 10 years ago, and I'm registered with TPS so I rarely get any nuisance calls on it. Also, I live in an area of England where broadband isn't available so I have a dial-up internet connection. The only advantage of this is that where I have to provide a telephone number to anyone I can give my landline number knowing that it will be nearly impossible for anyone to reach me on it - it's almost permanently engaged with my internet connection.
    However, contrary to Nikki Noodle's suggestion mobile phones are used more for telephone calls than sending pictures and I do indeed get quite a number of 'cold calls', mostly with the number witheld, which I simply don't answer. My mobile number is private, for the use of only a few people to whom I choose to give it, and I certainly don't want the number to be available to the general public. Having read other posts in this blog I understand that the number will not be automatically given out but my permission will be requested by text message first; if this is so, I'm willing to accept it rather than have to give my full name/address details in order to opt-out.
    I think the main point is that this unwanted and idiotic 'service' should never have been created in the first place.

  • Comment number 32.


  • Comment number 33.

    The reasoning is simple actually an d it's the same reason why Facebook is winning the battle againt Myspace.

    Privacy is not an all encompassing thing, it is not a choice between free access to everything and a closed shop. Most people are happy to share what you describe as intimate details with a certain set of othr people, just not with everyone. Most of the popular or rising social networking sites offer either an 'opt in' model for those sharing the information (like Facebook, Friends Reunited, etc.) or a very limited model in the first place that atually shares little real information (twitter, etc.).

    It's all about choice and perission. I choose what I put in Facebook, I choose who has access to that info and content (non-friends do not), I choose what I put on twitter, If my mobile number was on this service I could not choose to limit who saw it, I could only choose removal and people will always be set against any system that forces someone to opt out rather than opt in.

  • Comment number 34.

    This cannot be compared to social networking. People opt to do it and most only allow friends access to their profiles.

  • Comment number 35.

    @JWLJWL #32 - Did you not read their website? Or read this blog? They have suspended the whole service, not just the opt-out bit. Once it's back up and running you'll be able to happily opt-out of the service.

    Personally I don't have a problem with this as they don't give your information to anyone until you have responded to a text saying you're happy for it to be given. If anyone's stupid enough to spend a pound trying to get my number then I'm happy to oblige and will just as happily ignore the text so that they waste their pound! The fools!

  • Comment number 36.

    I'm with 'andywg' on this (post 30). The hysteria surrounding this subject is laughable, and a sad reflection of society today.

    I received a viral email about the service that was riddled with inaccuracies. The most contemptable of which was the claim that the person who's number is being sought will be charged £1 for the privelage. This is a complete untruth. The £1 charge is levied at the person who is looking for the number, not the person who owns the number. And of course, as has been mentioned several times above, the service DOES NOT GIVE OUT NUMBERS.

    Why can't people take a step back and spend 5 minutes looking at the FAQ section on the 118800 website (granted, not easy when it's down!)? It took me moments to discover FOR MYSELF that this service is quite inoffensive.

    I don't begrudge anyone who wishes to opt-out, but should society be proud of the fact it is on the verge of bringing down a company that is operating within the law, and who has taken clear steps to prevent the cold-calling everyone is fretting about? Should society be proud that, in the middle of a severe recession where enterprise is already so difficult, that an innocent company is being blasted by an ill-informed public reliant on information from utterly innacurate viral emails?

    I'm all for protecting privacy, but the furore about this service is hopelessly wide of the mark. Those who want to opt-out should do so, then shut up and let others decide for themselves.

    Me? I'm going to see how it goes before I choose whether to opt out, comfortable in the knowledge that my mobile number will remain private. Obviously if it gets annoying, I'll opt-out. Simple.

    No - I don't have any allegiance with 118800.

    PS - those who think they've never given permission for their number to be passed on to 118800 are delusional. At some point in the past, you have signed a contract that allows this to happen. Simple as.

  • Comment number 37.

    "PS - those who think they've never given permission for their number to be passed on to 118800 are delusional. At some point in the past, you have signed a contract that allows this to happen. Simple as."


    At what point was I have apparently meant to have done this? I have a pay as you go phone and signed no contracts at all.

  • Comment number 38.


    I am more than happy to clarify my point. By 'contract' I am not referring specifically to mobile phone contracts. I am referring to any 'contract' that you have made with any third party - this of course includes anything you purchase from a shop, online or otherwise.

    I bought something off the internet this morning. In order for the item to be successfully delivered, I had to give a contact number. I chose to use my mobile number as it is most convenient. I also chose to tick the boxes that indicate I do not want my details shared with any other company.

    All I'm saying is that at some point in the past you have given your mobile number to a company and not ticked the box. Granted - sometimes such opt-outs are buried deep in small print, which is sneaky.

    My number is in the 118800 database - so I must have made the same mistake in the past - no idea when though.

    I hope this clarifies my point.

  • Comment number 39.

    By 'Direct Marketing' people you mean the people that sell your information to spammers. They are the very reason I opted out from 188800.

    Yes, I was caught out by one of these inscrutable outfits based in London and started getting SPAM from all sorts of people (incl. Coca Cola). Once they (CC) had given me where they got my email address from all SPAM was bounced and forwarded to these direct marketeers. I am 'presently' SPAM free.

  • Comment number 40.

    I don't know about everyone else but I'm not so worried about removing my number from the 118800 database. What I would like to know is where they got it from, because who ever sold my information to 118800 was going against my express wishes that information I give to companies is not to be shared with other companies or used for marketing purposes.

  • Comment number 41.

    Their own CEO admitted on Working Lunch 14/7 that this data was made live on the Internet without proper testing. How can the public feel assured that proper security measures have been taken to prevent any hacking into your servers, which contain thousands of confidential records from people who don't want to be on your database?

    Virgilio Anderson

  • Comment number 42.

    The point about a mobile phone is that it allows me to make calls, it is not a means for all and sundry to contact me.

    Any phone call is essentially an intrusion which, unless you sceen your calls, demands instant attention. We will all have seen people rushing to answer a call in case the caller rings off.

    All those who see no problem in having their number made public might change their minds if their boss was to contact them out of office hours, over a weekend or at any other time that was to someone elses convenience rather than their own.

  • Comment number 43.


    Your mobile phone number is not being made public! 118800 will text you if someone is wanting to contact you. They are not given your mobile number, or any other personal details. You then decide whether you want to contact them.

    Anyone looking for your number will have to already know enough about you in order for 118800 to locate your number in their database - so it's not suitable for people who have no idea where you live or who you are. Could be invaluable in an emergency? Perhaps if a loved one has lost or forgotten your number?

    If you get bombarded by texts, that would, of course, become tiresome.

  • Comment number 44.

    "Has a popular revolt done for 118800? The controversial mobile phone directory launched last month, but has struggled to convince the great British public that it's a good idea to have your mobile number available for people to look up."


    Even Rory Cellan-Jones' introduction to this blog is misleading - suggesting that mobile numbers are being made 'available for people to look up'. They're not Rory. People can pay 118800 to ask you on their behalf to contact them. That's different to publishing a mobile phone number online.

    The media really don't help.

  • Comment number 45.

    You are right that the only idiots who think this could work come from the telemarketing 'industry'. Cold calling - even 'permission granted' cold calling - is increasingly irritating at a time of public anxiety about intrusions into what is left of our real privacy. At work - that's at WORK, note - I get two or three automated cold calls a day to a landline phone trying to sell me accident insurance. The only result is I simply know the name of the company NOT to trust under any circumstances.

  • Comment number 46.

    I meant to add that this is like so much else in so-called 'permission marketing' - i.e. based on an obvious fallacy. The fallacy is that I will feel good about getting a call, letter or email asking me if I want to hear more about double glazing whereas I will feel less good about getting a cold call trying to sell me double glazing. The fact is that BOTH are an unwanted, unsought intrusion and - truly - I will despise both examples of wasting my time equally. Like most people, I know how to find out about double glazing when I need to, thanks very much. Life is short, too short to listen to unsolicited twaddle.

  • Comment number 47.

    longdinner (post36)wrote:
    The most contemptable of which was the claim that the person who's number is being sought will be charged ?1 for the privelage. This is a complete untruth. The ?1 charge is levied at the person who is looking for the number, not the person who owns the number.
    How does the person being sought respond to give permission?
    If said person has to reply by text, it DOES cost them. Either the price of one text, or loss of one text from a "free" allocation, it is still a cost.

  • Comment number 48.


    I agree - it will cost you to contact the person who is trying to contact you through 118800. But you can choose not to contact them at all, and it won't cost a penny. My reference to the 1 pound charge was purely to illustrate the nature of the inaccuracy in the email, not to suggest that it wouldn't cost to reply to the text. The email falsely suggested that you will end up paying for texts simply if you don't opt-out.

    Look, I'm beginning to sound like I work for 118800, but I really don't. Can't imagine anything worse. My reason for posting here was simply to comment about the innacuracies and myths flying around the place about the service.

    I don't advocate the service or otherwise, and if I get bombarded with texts, of course I will opt-out - I just find it incredible that so many people can't simply go to the website and establish the facts for themselves.

  • Comment number 49.

    surely the difference is Social Networks are an opt-in process, while this is an opt-out process. Having been involved in many registration and sign-up based websites this is a key factor. No one wants to feel like they've been forced into something

  • Comment number 50.

    I can't check on their website, so:

    What processes does 118800 have in place to check that the person requesting the phone number has given their true identity?

    Say I want to avoid contact with Person A.

    I get a text from 118800 saying, "Person B wants to contact you." But it turns out that Person B was actually Person A who has given false identification.

    Or, even worse, it turns out Person B was actually Company A who want to cold call me!

  • Comment number 51.

    I've received a rather feeble bot-comment by someone calling themselves "Joe" (even the name has been chosen to be cheesy and PR-spin worthy) on my blog at blogger after I posted information for those seeking to have themselves removed from this opportunistic profiteering scheme. This appears to have happened all over the place so these miserable shysters are obviously trying to mount some form of response via the web. I hope it fails - this company's basic offering is simply not required. The mobile operators denied them subscriber lists (under threat of legal action from 188800 I might add) as the operators didn't think subscribers would want their mobile numbers released to people in this fashion: if the operators thought there was demand for this kind of service, they'd already be providing it.

    People power ROCKS. This is essentially a revolution - a Denial of Service attack brought about by genuine anger at this awful excuse for a business idea.

    I for one will cheer and break open the bubbly when the employees leave for better jobs (go on people, get out now while you can) in places which don't exploit personal information.

  • Comment number 52.

    @longdinner, I am very careful with my details. Even when I had a Bebo account which I only let friends (and I mean real friends, not the random Girlyyy53534 who wants to add me one day), I never put my phone number up on it.

    If I'm signing up to something that absolutely needs my phone number then either I won't sign up to it or I'll throw fake one in there.

  • Comment number 53.

    >> For another, the service involves sending texts to
    >> people whose numbers are sought out by users, asking
    >> whether they want to take a call, rather than "cold
    >> calling".

    I'm sorry, but Spam texts asking if I want to take marketing calls are just as annoying as the calls themselves! I'll be removing my own and my family's numbers just as soon as that rickety website is back up!!!

  • Comment number 54.

    I see 118800 have got a few of their employees to voluntarily defend their service - well perhaps they haven't much work to do. Simply, the service was supposed to allow people to remove their numbers from the directory. It does not.

    It claims not to give out numbers (so one wonders where they got the numbers from in the first place - from companies who made a similar claim?)

    However the service will bombard people in their directory with unlimited text messages asking if you want to be contacted by Spamalot Incorporated. This is not much of an improvement is it?

    And the first time this service is used by a paedophile to contact a vulnerable child, will the mobile phone numbers of all the directors be published so the public can give them their unedited opinion?

    The website claims they will not include the mobile phone numbers of children but they have no way of knowing if a mobile phone is used by a child.

  • Comment number 55.

    incidentally I invariably put 666 666666 as my phone number when asked by web forms. I usually tell telemarketers I don't have a phone!

  • Comment number 56.

    I am staggered at the scaremongering tactics of the BBC. Here we have an innovative new service trying to launch in a recession where people are losing their jobs every day and BBC triumphantly stamps all over it without giving it a chance to be fairly heard.

    This piece is awful: after praising the Working Lunch programme "After the BBC's excellent Working Lunch programme gave prolonged coverage.." he then notes there are inaccuracies in their coverage and attempts to redress the balance a bit but falls short by not emphasising that our mobile numbers are NEVER given out and are not visible even to the call centre operators. This company has taken great lengths to ensure privacy and the BBC has trodden all over their plans like some reactionary hack in search of a scandal.

    Shame on the BBC. I think Declan should retract his comments and apologise to the company particularly for allocating enough time for their CEO to come back to him at the end of the interview, after he said his company was "finished now".

    In case my feelings are not clear we need INNOVATION in this country not the 'not invented here' attitudes this whole sorry BBC coverage has put across.

  • Comment number 57.

    Sorry for any bad spelling but i am dyslexic just to let you know the company will get the numbers from companys refured to data wherehouses who hold vast amounts of infomation and sell it to business's they collect it from places such as phones for u and car phone where house when you got the phone. knowing this and understanding that they will pay probebly less than pence for 1 number do you all realy think that a marketing comperny are going to pay 11800 £1 to get your phone number when they can get it for a few pence or less???

  • Comment number 58.

    sorry ment to say refured to as data wherehouses

  • Comment number 59.


    Data whorehouses, more like! Anything for money.

    I checked whether I was included in the directory: I wasn't, so I didn't give them my number to ensure it stayed that way.

    My mobile number has been given to a few trusted people, with strict instructions that they aren't to share it. I never use it on forms. It seems to have worked so far.

    I have no desire to be contacted by text message or any other means by those to whom I haven't given my number. Getting marketing messages from Orange (who obviously need my number, but which it took a lot of effort to stop) is bad enough.

  • Comment number 60.

    so for example if some one in your family was taken ill and your number had been lost (however unlikely) would you not think the service was of use

  • Comment number 61.

    Good question. But my landline is in the phone book. And I have a couple of email addresses. It wouldn't be difficult to get a message to me saying "Bad news. Call me back," and that level of contactability coupled with the very unlikely scenario of not having my mobile number to hand outweighs the possibility of people using the service whom I don't want to talk to.

    You may feel differently: everyone needs to make their own judgement. Now, if Connectivity/118800 had made more of that argument (see also #43) their system might not have crashed under the strain. It's probably a bit late, now, though.

  • Comment number 62.

    I would suggest anyone coming to this post looks at comments 16, 30 & 36 before getting in a panic that they can't _give_ a company their mobile number so that it can be removed from a database they can't be sure their number is even on in the first place...

  • Comment number 63.

    @61 good point there are may other forms of comunacation nowdays however not every one has the access to them i know a lot of people that only have a mobile. a lot of people do not check thier emails on a regular bacis. me included.

    I am in support of this service even though i do not like cold calls or marketing even though i have worked for them befo but i do not belive my number being on there will get me any more calls than i have already as i did not tick the box to not give my number out in the carphone wherehouse and had to get a new number as i was reciving about 6 calls a day asking if i wanted a new phone now my contract was running out 8 mounth befor it did

  • Comment number 64.

    I've just received a 'reply' from 118800 regarding my request for unsubscribing. Notice that if I request ALL my details be removed from their system, they will not guarantee that I won't be contacted...? Surely, if I have ALL my details removed, then no-one can ask this company for my number?? Why can I not quite trust these morons?

    "Thank you for your email requesting that we delete your details from our directory.
    Wed like to suggest we make you ex-directory rather than deleting all your details. This means that you will not re-appear in our directory in future when we refresh our data. And neither our call centre, nor our website, confirms ex-directory listings to enquirers.

    However if you do really want us to delete all of your information then we will of course do so. But we must advise you that we cannot then guarantee you will remain out of our directory as we will hold no reference for you to honour such a guarantee.

    Whichever solution you prefer, we need you to provide your full name, home address and mobile telephone number. Simply email us back at with these details confirming whether you want to be ex-directory or have your details deleted. Please state either Ex-directory or Delete in your email subject line.
    In the meantime, we want to reassure you that 118 800 connects people; we do not give out mobile phone numbers".

    118 800 Customer Services


  • Comment number 65.

    I do not understand your issue from what the email reads it advised that they will remove you from there system compleatly and you may be added at a later date when they get more infoamtion and update that info on thier systems if in this contained your info on it and they do not have a record of you asking not to be included which would be the case if you where to ask to be completly removed. or they can keep a file of you not wanting to be part of the service and not put you back in to the service if your name comes in from future aquirment of infomation

  • Comment number 66.

    The point of #64 is that the company won't know anything about him. So when his details are obtained by 118800, they won't know they are supposed to exclude him and will simply add him into the database. If he's flagged as ex-directory then he will always be ex-directory.

    It begs the question about where the data is coming from and the opt-in/informed consent required by the Information Commissioner for this sort of service. If you didn't know your number was to be included in a directory, it shouldn't be. Just because you didn't say "Don't pass this number around", you should not be held to have consented to inclusion.

    Having to be ex-directory in order that they don't connect unwanted calls to you is almost [but not quite] as bad as having to have a Webwise cookie to stop Phorm doing anything with your browsing data.

    There! You were wondering how long it would be before the two were linked, weren't you?!

  • Comment number 67.

    I for one am glad that the working lunch chaps highlighted the issue. I am having problems with advertisers full stop. To expect them to stick to a promise to contact every person for permission in an opt out situation is at best nieve. I have been bombarded by phone calls to my mobile day and night for the past week which coincides with me being ill at the moment- I thought my stalker was back. I find it upsetting. One caller sarted swearing at me before hanging up when all I asked was who the company were and how they had got my number They wanted me to confirm my info before they would reveal theirs. I get asked to discuss my hospital visists, legal position, my work and my financial affairs. All deeply private. My colleague is getting bombarded on her work mobile and its linked phone and is getting into trouble for it. I also have problems with flashing ads on my email. The button to switch off the ads has been taken away. When I contact the firm to explain it affects my Epilepsy they tell me I will have to pay them to stop the ads flashing. Can this be right to have this accumulation of adverts, spam, mail, calls, texts thrown at us from all directions. I desperately want it all to stop.

  • Comment number 68.

    The worst case I ever had was when I was beginning to go into a seizure. I lived alone in a rural location and tried to use my mobile to call an ambulance as I have a history of Status Epilepticus. At that moment a very large very famous high st bank who I would love to name and shame called to demand money, Worse when I didn't owe them it. She demanded my credit card details before she would call an ambulance or let me continue my call, leaving me in tears and only hung up after I hit the floor, which was too late. That cost me a few days in hospital by the time I was eventually found a few hours later. To say I hate and fear cold callers and any form of direct marketing is an understatement. It should be outlawed. Thats why I joined the preference service and got caller display on my phone. Neither of which has stopped the calls.

  • Comment number 69.

    Dear Longdinner
    I have a pay as you go mobile, I have not answered any of the texts just deleted them and I have had 15 different companies ring me direct on my mobile this week alone. I am careful with my data. Not one asked me if I wanted the call. The companies were quite open that the service just gives them my name AND personal details. They knew all kinds of stuff about me. They called me direct. Noone asked me if I wanted the call. Previously I could screen calls on my landline. I have no choice in this. I either accept it and stress or give them more of my details at a cost to me. These companies never just buy one list. They buy your info from around the globe. The most invasive being America. Companies can buy the unedited list of voters from our Government. They can get a complete picture easily by peicing it all together electronically and they have one of me down to why I was last in hospital. Its not hysteria its worrying. Banks and Governemnt Departments and even your local Dry cleaners are careless with your data. I know Ive worked for all three. IT will only get worse. I agree that people power is the only way forward. You gotta agree so far its crashed the site. Companies are not following the rules as decribed and face it there is no ofcom or ombudsman with the money or teeth or two hoots to stop em.

  • Comment number 70.

    Not that I want to crash this site as it is very informative and helpful. However. Another way to register your mobile, Address and house phone, Children and deceased and also ex owners or renters of your property or where you used to live to protect your data and prevent distress is the Preference Agency. very simple, absolutely FREE, lots of helpful information and links and direct forms to complain to the Govt Authorities supposed to stop infringements. Good FAQS guide and info on 118800. Recommend it. Found out one of my numbers was previously registered with them so now I can nab the offenders that keep ringing it. Good luck


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites