Sunday, August 06, 2006

You are becoming untraceable

The more communication devices we get, the more difficult it is to find someone. Having fixed line telephone and mobile phones (handies), not all numbers are registered and available in print and on internet. Many people become untraceable.

It was so easy when telephone companies were still state monopolies. Whenever you got a telephone connection, you were asked whether you wanted to be registered in the telephone directory; you could also ask the keep the number secret. The telephone company was obliged to print and distribute a regional directory; this measure was based on the supposition, stemming from the pre-mobile era that the people you wanted to speak with lived close to you, most likely in the same region. Only businesses would buy the national directories, while direct marketing companies wanted to have selected databases.

France was the first country to understand that society became mobile and moved outside the region. In order to stimulate the new national telephone network in the 1980s, the telephone company decided to launch a national electronic directory service, which became known as Minitel.

When the state telephone companies became commercial telecom companies, directories were no longer a legal obligation and part of their core business. Besides the competitors would not like to share their address databases with the incumbent as market shares could be analysed. Yet commercially directories still were interesting as business directories and as direct marketing instruments. This was the reason for some venture capitalist to buy up directory companies like The Yell in Great Britain or Telia in the Netherlands. Presently a venture company is negotiating the sale of Les Pages Jaunes with France Telecom.

It is not only the printed directories with the advertisements that are interesting to venture capitalists. Also the internet version of the national directory is a source of income.

But the directory companies have problems in collecting numbers and addresses. They have to collect registered telephone numbers from the fixed line companies, but also from the mobile phone companies. But not all companies and subscribers are collaborating. Besides people terminate their fixed line subscriptions in favour of mobile phone subscriptions. People are also guarding their privacy; they do not want to junk mail and junk calls; if they want mail, they like to receive relevant and personalised mail.

Now the directory services will have to look for other ways in order to get hold of the numbers and addresses of subscribers, regardless of their companies. The Dutch company Telia will still use the registration of companies, in as far as they maintain a registry, but they will also contact every household and company. They will request the telephone numbers, addresses and e-mail addresses. In lieu, people and companies will be able to indicate how their data may be used. Consent marketing. In this way, the directory companies will have to optimise their directory databases.

It is interesting to observe, that the more communication devices we have, the harder we can be found.

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Blog Posting Number 465

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