Struggling with connectivity

Robin points out that the 118800 mobile phone directory service has been suspended. Operators Connectivity claim that the suspension is to allow revisions to the beta version of the service, but speculation has it that the volume of ex-directory opt-out requests has buried them and the website was unable to cope with the traffic.

I had some contact with Connectivity* in the early days of the business, and concluded that whilst their approach – requiring opt-out but not actually revealing phone numbers – probably doesn’t breach the Data Protection Act, clearly there would be folk who would be unhappy with it. However it seemed unlikely that there would be such an extreme reaction to the 118800 service. The viral campaign against Connectivity has been a success – I’ve received emails from all sorts of folk, and seen the message in a host of completely unrelated discussion fora. 118800 crosses an invisible line of acceptability from a privacy perspective, and in light of the fight over Phorm which has seen all its partners withdraw from the UK trials, the future might not be too rosy for Connectivity either.

* Purely on an informal basis – I’ve no commercial relationship with Connectivity

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Agreed that it crosses a line that they didn't expect. Interested in your thoughts on the DPA .. but also what about the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC DIrective) Regulations 2003 (the PECRs)? Not quite sure how automatic entries into this service meet the fair processing requirements of the DPA or Regulation 18 of the PECRs .. UNLESS the party collecting a person's data made them aware in a transparent manner of the intention to place that person's data into a directory and gave them the opportunity to determine if so wished an entry or not? what are your thoughts Toby? This has raised all sorts of questions about the trade in personal data and let's hope some clarity comes out of the regulatory fudge witnessed in the past few weeks. Business needs consistency in interpretation and application of law .. if regulators sit on the fence as they are over this service .. then compliance will only hinder the development of innovative services and new technologies. What is clear from the public backlash is that individuals expect respect, transparency and choice when it comes to the processing of the personal data.
I'm not going to comment on PECRs - I'd need to do some more research first. Connectivity's CEO put in a good performance on BBC2's Working Lunch today, and I personally think the issue is less thorny than that of Phorm/DPI, but nevertheless it's clearly getting people worked up. And you're quite right on the need for better regulatory guidance, UK regulators seem to be hell-bent on sticking their heads in the sand when it comes to the personally identifiable aspects of any number (phone, IP, numberplate etc.)
here's a letter from Phil Jones (assistant IC) to the MP John F Spellar concerning Connectivity and the ICO's engagement. makes interesting reading + fails to address the ambiguity in their advice to date
People may be interested in Connectivity’s response to the telecom regulators consultation on directory information obligations and regulations … it makes some interesting reading. A key statement is: “MNOs [mobile network operators] are manipulating their privacy obligations in such a way that consumers are not being given the opportunity to choose whether or not have their numbers included in a directory service”. Interesting to note that Connectivity accepts that people should be given “the opportunity to choose whether or not have their numbers included in a directory service”. One must ask why they chose not to give people any opportunity .. of course they will say ‘we have and do …. people can opt-out’ ….. not quite the same is it and not quite the knd of privacy consumers expect.