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Pausing the issue of Recycled Phone Numbers due to Social Media Links and Identifiers

Started by: frpc
On: 26/04/2017 | 19:14
Replies: 48
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by: frpc
on: 26/04/2017 | 19:14 edited: 26/04/2017 | 19:20

As many of you may know giffgaff recycle mobile phone numbers.  Whether taken back from deceased or non used members or for other reasons. Often ex-members have previously used these recycled numbers as contact identifiers  for facebook and the like with all the problems that rains upon the recipient of a 'bad' mobile recycled number.

It seems clear that giffgaff are not checking numbers against social media outlets to see if the numbers are still attached to LIVE facebook/twitter/whatsapp accounts before they REISSUE these 2nd/3rd hand numbers to new members sims and present real problems for new members in setting up their own social media accounts, using their recycled phone number which will be denied registration by fb and others.

 

giffgaff need to review their policy on reissuing recycled mobile numbers and come up with a failsafe system that prevents this problem and hints at a potential breach of data protection rules, when the recycled number identifies a previous member(s)

 

Those of you familiar with social media are probably aware of the reverse number search facility that unless disabled, can identify a previous giffgaff member, through their initial login registration using the giffgaff number but subsequently forgetting to update their new number or unable to do so through death or other reasons.

 

I myself was alerted to the problem when a series of debt companies called me asking for Mr ? xxxxx who I had no knowledge of. One of them let slip fb confirmed the persons identity. When I checked, sure enough the fb member was still displaying my newish giffgaff number. It took a long time I eventually through some prolonged persistance, resolved the conflict to my satisfaction.

However this should not have been a task that I needed to undertake.

It was the Network's responsibility, not OURS. 

 

https://labs.giffgaff.com/idea/16704729/giffgaff-must-pause-recycling-of-mobile-numbers-due-to-socia...



Message 1 of 49
by: williamwalker
on: 26/04/2017 | 19:36

Hi @frpc

A great informative post I never knew anything like this could happen.

You have my vote and thanks for the info.👍

Message 2 of 49
by: harrrrrry
on: 26/04/2017 | 21:14

I fully agree that mobile phone numbers shouldn't be recycled. However, it's ofcom not giffgaff that insists phone numbers must be recycled if they are not in use.

 

Giffgaff and other networks may possibly have some flexibility in how they define a phone to not be in use, but if the number is not in use, then giffgaff has no choice but to put the number back in the recycling pool.

 

So, putting it in labs is a waste of time and the place where you should probably post the idea is https://petition.parliament.uk/

 

Get a free giffgaff Sim

Message 3 of 49
by: nick74
on: 26/04/2017 | 21:19
@frpc
Interesting idea, but the question is how could Giffgaff physically check all of the possible social media and other services which a mobile number could be linked to? As far as I know none of these service providers are under any obligation to release information to Giffgaff. In fact data protection laws may specifically prohibit them from doing so?
Message 4 of 49
by: woodyuk
on: 26/04/2017 | 21:30 edited: 26/04/2017 | 21:32

I think this is a really interesting subject which I must admit hadn't crossed my mind so I thought I'd try and do a little research and see just what giffgaff's obligations are when it comes to "cleaning" recycled numbers and as far as I can establish,there aren't any.This is all I've managed to find so far:-

 

In this blog post in 2013,giffgaff announced that they were to start recycling numbers as they had been asked to by O2 in order to save money:-

 

https://community.giffgaff.com/t5/Blog/Recycling-mobile-numbers-giffgaff/ba-p/8211666

 

In 2014 OFCOM announced that they were considering setting specific guidelines on how to recycle and “sterilise” inactive numbers to prevent a shortage of mobile numbers and that at that time there were  no specific rules on how operators should manage mobile numbers.

 

There are a lot of articles from tech websites at that time,this one is as good as any I found:-

 

http://www.mobilenewscwp.co.uk/2014/02/24/ofcom-takes-action-to-avoid-mobile-number-shortage-fears/

 

As far as i can establish though,OFCOM never laid out any rules for just how mobile numbers should be "sterilised" during recycling because the only information on their website is aimed at consumers advising them that inactive PAYG numbers will be recycled.

 

https://www.ofcom.org.uk/phones-telecoms-and-internet/advice-for-consumers/advice/pay-as-you-go-mobi...

 

So as far as i can find out,giffgaff have no legal obligation to ensure that mobile numbers are cleaned and free of ties to social media etc but I think it would be fair to argue that they have a moral/ethical obligation to do so as far as is possible in order to avoid customers finding themselves in the same situation that you did.

Message 5 of 49
Highlighted
by: nfh
on: 26/04/2017 | 22:27

harrrrrry wrote:

 

I fully agree that mobile phone numbers shouldn't be recycled. However, it's ofcom not giffgaff that insists phone numbers must be recycled if they are not in use.

There should be a minimum period that a phone number needs to be out of use before it can be issued as new to another user. I would suggest 24 months as a minimum. Ofcom should be imposing a minimum on all networks, not only upon giffgaff.

Message 6 of 49
by: nfh
on: 26/04/2017 | 22:30

nick74 wrote:
Interesting idea, but the question is how could Giffgaff physically check all of the possible social media and other services which a mobile number could be linked to?

I agree. There can be no onus on third party service providers who happen to hold records of their users' mobile numbers. This has to be prevented in a blanket fashion at an earlier stage.

 

Does giffgaff reissue previously used numbers much sooner than other networks do?

Message 7 of 49
by: frpc
on: 26/04/2017 | 23:24

nick74 wrote:

@frpc
Interesting idea, but the question is how could Giffgaff physically check all of the possible social media and other services which a mobile number could be linked to? As far as I know none of these service providers are under any obligation to release information to Giffgaff. In fact data protection laws may specifically prohibit them from doing so?

Thanks for your comment @nick74  I would look at the problem from a slightly different perspective.  Since you have referred to data protection laws, what about my right to privacy of my own phone number, under the same data protection laws? I didn't sign up to have an allocated mobile number that was already being used as a social media identifying registered contact number for someone else. Facebook is not unique in getting users to register phone numbers and email addresses on their system. 

 

Cynics will argue that the user can always go to fb settings and hide their mobile number or email details. They can but many more do not. If hidden, then those users do not cause a problem to our online security.  It is the open lack of security of the reverse look up of numbers that causes potential online threats to our security.

 

In this instance giffgaff do not require fb or others permission to physically check the mobile number status. They own the number prior to re-issue after all. They do have a duty of care to ensure a re-issued number is fit for purpose. Re-issuing numbers 'blindly' without a care for members is not only shortsighted but quite possibly a breach of trust.



Message 8 of 49
by: frpc
on: 26/04/2017 | 23:49 edited: 26/04/2017 | 23:58

goldengirl wrote

I know of a "live" Facebook page where the person has actually committed suicide. His family have just left it and possibly no one knows his passwords. How can phone companies tell social ,edia etc that numbers are reallocated?

how long since last use is there before a number is reissued?

it is a good point but the solution is not obvious. Debt collectors can chase for years  - There is no limit!

 

Hi @goldengirl Thanks for your comment on labs. In a way you have supported my idea. The victim's relatives are left stranded in limbo, the mobile number they have, might not match the fb contact number at all. Yet because the former number has been re-issued to an unknown giffgaff member for example.

 

As for debt collectors, they can only chase for six years not eternity, although it may feel as though it is to the person being sought. Another point to consider is that a dirty phone number gets linked to a debt free members credit file thus causing all sorts of future credit issues



Message 9 of 49
by: nick74
on: 27/04/2017 | 07:17
@frpc
I can't see that any data protection laws were broken in the previous user of a number posting it on Facebook or similar? After all the 'data' that number links to is their data, not yours.

My point is that it just isn't practical or even possible for a mobile network to scour every social media service for links to a particular phone number before reissuing it. Then there are of course other services a number can be linked to for security purposes, for example banks, PayPal, Google accounts, HMRC online... how could Giffgaff find out about those?

The answer is for no network to ever recycle any number, but it is not within Giffgaff's power to do that. They are forced to reissue numbers.

Message 10 of 49