Caller ID – Service or spoof?

by Carla Koutroulis. Caller ID services can be harmful to businesses which may not realise they are identified in a way that is damaging to their brand reputation.

by Carla Koutroulis. Caller ID services can be harmful to businesses, which may not realise that their business is identified in a way that is damaging to their brand reputation.

Some may say they can’t live without it. It’s saves them countless unwanted telephone exchanges with spammers, direct marketers and just people they would rather not talk to generally. But at what cost? Caller ID services like Truecaller provide a service, seemingly for free or at a premium, but at what cost to business?

In the data economy of 2022 we know that nothing is ever truly for free. When you click through the boxes signing up for such services, you may not agree to pay them, but your contacts, as stored in your phone, become available to them. This is how they build the enormous database they have. Too many saves in contacts as “boring Bob”, for example, and your number will be tagged as that. Cringeworthy for Bob and alarming for organisations.

And it seems that tag/ flag/ bright red flashing light is stuck there, possibly in perpetuity. Despite what Truecaller states on its site, it’s not simple at all to remove the cringeworthy tag attached to your name or delete the “spammer” notification. Telephone numbers are often recycled, and ‘Bob’ might not even be Bob anymore.

So, a legitimate business with reallocated telephone numbers may not be able to get through to its customers because the previous owner of the telephone number was a sales call centre, and no one wants to answer a number tagged as “likely sales call” or “spam”. It might take them a while to figure this out, costing them money and resources which could have been better allocated somewhere else.

Prevailing legislation, namely POPIA and PAIA, require that any data subject in South Africa (whether an organisation or an individual), be enabled to request a copy of the data held by an organisation about it; and ensure that data is accurate and up to date. This does not seem easy to achieve (as required) in all instances, and sometimes all but impossible, from these caller ID services. Which is a major problem for brands.


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Carla Koutroulis is a Senior Associate at Consilium Legal, a boutique legal and business advisory.


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