Home phone numbers have been available to the public for a long time, so many Americans treasure the fact that their cell numbers can be kept private — or so they think. Now, all it takes is a few bucks and Internet access to find tens of millions of personal cell phone numbers.
A Web site named Intelius has created a clearinghouse of cell phone numbers that can be purchased online for $15 each. Its source — every business and company you’ve ever provided with your personal information.
“We do pay for the data, everything from government agencies to third party companies, where we compile a lot of this information together,” said Ed Peterson, vice president of sales and marketing at Intelius.
Intelius already has 90 million cell phone numbers, and it’s adding 70 million more in the coming days, along with the addresses that go with them.
“Frankly, it’s the Wild West when it comes to our personal information,” said Avivah Litan, director of research at Gartner Inc.
Intelius claims it is providing a public service that will help parents track down who is calling their children, or families checking on a nanny, but many individuals are upset that their information can be bought online.
ABC’s David Muir attempted to buy the records of three people he approached today in New York City, and they were shocked to learn he’d purchased every cell phone number and address they ever had.
Intelius even had the number of a minor.
“That’s my son & he’s 14,” said Winsome Jones.
“You can’t even assume that minors have privacy rights. Maybe this is a wake-up call once we see congressmen’s cell phone numbers on the Internet. Maybe they’ll finally start acting, but the data brokers are not regulated,” Lihtan said. “No one’s looking over their shoulder and saying you can or cannot do this.”
And until Congress takes action, Intelius’ business of selling personal information is perfectly legal.
If you want to opt-out of having your information listed in Intelius’ database, log-on to http://www.intelius.com/privacy-faq.php#5