Google Offers Free Directory Assistance, Adds To Your Permanent File

Google Voice Local Search has emerged from the Google Labs to provide free directory assistance. A call to 1-800-GOOG-411 connects you to a pleasant automated operator who asks for your city and state. From there, you can narrow your search by business or category. When Google finds your business, it offers to either connect you for free, or text the details to your phone. The service does not currently support ads.

If your request flummoxes the system, Google repeats the following inescapable error message: “You know what, it looks like you’ve an uncovered a small error in the system. We’ll fix that as soon as possible. We really appreciate the calls. Talk to you soon.”

Google wrote a privacy policy specific to Google Voice Local Search, which we examine inside…

(Photo: flattop341)

From the privacy policy:
If you do not have caller id blocked, we collect and store the number of your phone, along with the time of your call, each time you use the Google Voice Local Search service. We may use this phone number to distinguish you from other users, and ultimately, to personalize the service to you. If you do not wish us to record your phone number, then you may choose to block caller id for your number. For information about how to block caller id, please contact your carrier or your local phone company, as appropriate.

If you use a Google service that asks for your cellphone number, the search giant can link your 411 inquiries to your other Google searches. Numerous privacy advocates are concerned that Google is compiling a permanent record of its users’ activities that would make any intelligence agency grade-school principal salivate. To address these concerns in part, the search giant recently promised to anonymize its server logs after two years. Though we regularly preach the gospel of Google to friends and family, Google’s transparent privacy policy amounts to a single request: “trust us.”

Google thankfully provides an easy way to opt-out. To keep Google from harvesting your data, simply block caller id by prepending your call to GOOG-411 with *67. — CAREY GREENBERG-BERGER

Google Voice Local Search [Google]


Edit Your Comment

  1. dragonflight says:

    Interesting service, hopefully more effective than 1800free411.

    I’ve had good luck with their text message search before, so all this really does is save me the expense of a few text messages a month.

    Not too concerned about the privacy policy, I believe Facebook has something similar saying they reserve the right to any content you upload.

  2. RumorsDaily says:

    I just tried it, it’s pretty good.

  3. Coup says:

    Kinda nifty, doesn’t really help us Canadians though.

    A search for my town here in Ontario got me Ontario, California. Not exactly what i was looking for.

    *snif* we always get left out.

  4. PenguinBlue says:

    I tried it earlier this weekend for a search that 800-FREE411 completely failed for me last week (a search for “golf courses”). Free411 got confused and eventually just hung up on me (didn’t even send me to an operator); Google worked perfectly and found the one I wanted right away.

  5. Antediluvian says:

    Except…. you can’t block caller ID to 800 numbers. It’s automatically sent whether you want it to be or not. That’s because the called party is paying for the call. It’s also because they aren’t getting “caller ID” information technically, they’re getting “Automatic Number Identification” info (ANI) instead:

    I’m really surprised Google is saying you can use caller ID blocking in a way that you absolutely, without a doubt, simply cannot do (no calls to 800/888/877/866 numbers can have the “caller ID” (really, ANI) info blocked).

  6. North Antara says:

    They don’t have to use the ANI – toll-free providers would get both, and can choose to use one or the other. If they say that you can block CID, then they use CID as the identifier. Chances are, it’s a bit more complex like that though (ie; if your CID and ANI are different, they may use ANI).

  7. roamer1 says:

    @Antediluvian: people and businesses with toll-free numbers can opt to receive caller ID (CPN), ANI (charge number), both, or neither on inbound calls — it all depends on how the customer ordered the service and how it’s delivered. (Phone bills that show call detail generally show ANI.)

    Yes, I work for a phone company.

  8. Karl says:

    If you want to see just how ineffective *67 is in blocking your phone number from toll-free numbers, try calling *67-1-866-MY-ANI-IS or *67-1-800-444-4444.

  9. Charles Duffy says:

    We’ve got a standard PRI from Time Warner Telecom and get both CID and ANI information separately. Presuming Google’s setup is similar, they should have the option to allow folks to opt out of this information collection by using only CID and not ANI.

    This isn’t just for our toll-free number, btw — we get ANI on regular calls as well.

  10. mattbrown says:

    Is anyone still surprised that Google works with the government?

  11. up2late says:

    Well, I just tried it, it worked pretty well for me – I requested the number of my tax provider, and they sent the PH# and address to me in TXT format – sweet! (I tried the *69 option but it didn’t work, I probably need to program in a pause or something). But even without the anonymizing, I figure if I’m not calling my drug dealer, wtf do I care?