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Mobile phone directory site breaks down

Opt-out requests may have caused site outage

The 118 800 mobile phone directory service has broken down and isn't expected to be back up and running until tomorrow. The service aggregates UK mobile phone numbers and creates a searchable database of contact information.

Its website is currently down, undergoing maintenance, and isn't expected to be back in operation by the end of the day. This means that anyone who has visited the website to either register their number or have it excluded from the mobile phone database will be left in limbo waiting for a confirmation text message stating that their request has been processed.

Over the past two days emails have been circulating round British offices suggesting that anyone who doesn't want their mobile phone number to be included in a commercial database visit the website of the company setting up the directory and enter their mobile phone number.

However, some sources have suggested that the email itself is part of a campaign to get people to enter their mobile phone number at the site, thereby confirming the number is active.

According to details posted at www.118800.co.uk in the FAQ section under Privacy, you should be able to have your number delisted by prefacing your phone number with the letter 'E'. A text message will confirm that this has been done and your mobile number won't them to added to the claimed database of some 15 million numbers.

The 118 800 service will sell its database to businesses and marketeers that want to be able to contact potential customers. Consumers will be able to find friends and colleagues via the service by entering the person's name and location and by paying a fee of £1. The service will then connect them to the person, but will not divulge the mobile phone number.

The company that runs 118 800, Connectivity, says it will broker the call but will ask the person receiving the call if they are happy to accept the call.

Even so, many consumers are unhappy that their private mobile phone numbers will be traded in this manner - hence the apparent surge in traffic to the site to go ex-directory.

Conveniently, the website where you can opt out of the database is down for maintenance. PC Advisor's calls to Ofcom for comment on the service itself and the legitimacy of the emails stating that you can opt out in this manner have yet to bear fruit. Ofcom has so far said that it believes the matter may be out of its remit and has no comment given that the service has yet to launch.

The accompanying TV adverts for the service, which went live on 18 June, suggest that the service will be akin to that of the Yellow Pages or other directory services that provide business and residential phone numbers. However, privacy campaigners are concerned that it's actually an infringement of consumer's rights.

"You are supposed to have people's consent if you are going to pass their number around and they need to know where it is going to go," says Chris Watson, a lawyer at CMS Cameron McKenna, told the BBC Working Lunch programme.

For now, the best advice is probably to ensure your phone number doesn't appear on sites such as Facebook, not to allow the sharing by 'selected organisations' of your details and to switch your phone silent.


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