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]

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.