Mobile phone Verification â safety from spammers or an example of âWebliningâ? | DMA

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Mobile phone Verification â safety from spammers or an example of âWebliningâ?

In the ‘frontier’ world of spammers, scammers and bots increasing numbers of people are hacking, cracking and generally abusing web and mobile Apps, which leave the companies who own them desperate to mitigate their risk.

One method they are turning to is mobile phone verification. Telesign Mobile Identity is the poster-child of number verification and count Google, Microsoft and Facebook as customers and they say usernames are dead.

The way it works is that when you register for a service that uses a patented Phone ID Score, the service will send your number over to Telesign who automatically send back a rating on your number.

The service is able to block risky sign-ups, or present the user with additional steps to authenticate themselves further. Publicly, it is being sold as a security measure, but the data available can reveal lots about who you are, and what your value might be to the service provider.

The logic is simple: an Apple Iphone, on 24 month contract, registered to a UK 10 year-old number will always trump a comparable phone and location when the contract is a PAYG with GiffGaff.

But the practice could have echoes of the bad old days of ‘redlining’, where lenders and other businesses marked whole neighbourhoods off-limits, often on thinly-disguised racial grounds.

And at a time when net-neutrality is hot on the lips of US and European legislators, it’s worth considering how your telephone number is a more tangible, and personal item than an email address, allowing for more inferences to be drawn.

This reflects the challenge presented by ‘Big Data’; confluence of many streams of personal information, unthinkable a few years ago, is heading into uncharted waters. ‘Webliners’ may claim to have more evidence against the people they snub, but cardholders will never be shown their data. And scientists who devise these ‘neural networks’ admit they can’t always vouch for their accuracy, or even say how they reach a specific conclusion.

This isn’t to say that using data to better understand prospects is a bad thing, but companies and users should think before harvesting and surrendering personal information respectively. The regular calls we receive at the office offering services of one sort or another seem to be as much about gathering and refining data as selling, and as public awareness grows we will all become more protective of our personal ‘natural resources’.

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