Is Google Voice a Privacy Nightmare?

Internet Privacy

The internet has been buzzing in anticipation for the public release of Google Voice. The service never completely opened up last week but invites have begun to slowly trickle out.

There is no doubt that a service like Google Voice is a telecommunication game changer. It offers a menu of insanely useful features:

  • Advanced call and caller routing
  • Powerful call screening and the ability to listen to a voicemail as it’s being recorded
  • Transcribed voicemail that can be archived and shared
  • SMS Archiving
  • Call recording

Like all technology Google Voice is a double edged sword and not without inherent flaws and potential for abuse. As far as individual privacy is concerned, the service’s rich features are both it’s strength and vulnerability.

The features are a privacy strength for Google because they will have full access to a wealth of private user information by scanning users phone calls, voice mails, and text messages. They will use that data for a multitude of purposes but mainly to drive contextual advertising to a user.

Last week Mike Elgan wrote an excellent article for Computerworld, Why Google Voice is Free, where he correctly pointed out the following:

Google users are the “product” — users are not Google’s customers. By this I mean that Google is selling information about its users to advertisers, which are the company’s real customers.

Many have suggested that the level of voicemail transcription accuracy could mean that humans are manually transcribing complex messages while simple ones are handled by machines. How would you feel about someone, anyone, listening to a personal message left by a friend or loved one?

There will be also be thorny legal issues that arise from recorded conversations and transcribed voicemails. Sure, we have always had the ability to record a conversation. It will just be more convenient for more people in the future with the inevitable large amount of Google Voice users.

Many people continue to use Gmail fully aware that their data is always being scanned, used, and sold. Will Google Voice take our privacy concerns to a new level. Will you sign up for the service knowing the risks and privacy concerns?

Other interesting articles and resources:

How Do I Keep My Phone Number If I Move?

Forward your current number to a new service provider or carrier in a different area code using NumberGarage.

Keep your phone number when moving

What if you moving or relocating to a new city and you would like to keep your phone number? It can be a major hassle contacting all your friends, relatives, accounts, and service providers to give them your new phone number. Frankly, it is a stress you can live without during and after your exhausting move.

NumberGarage is the perfect solution for an individual, household, or business to forward a number to a new service provider in another area code.

Unfortunately most are unaware that a service such as ours exists. The major phone companies like AT&T, Qwest, and Verizon do not offer forwarding if a customer is moving to a new location and needs to cancel their current service. As far as they are concerned they are done with you. Once you close your account your number eventually gets passed on. What’s with that? No worries, that is why we are here.

If you decide to keep your old number using NumberGarage make sure you don’t cancel your phone old phone service. Sign up for an account and we will port your phone number to your garage. Once your number is ported your account with the previous provider will automatically be terminated and you most likely will receive a final bill. You can then log into your NumberGarage account and choose where you would like your old number to forward to.

When anyone calls your old number you’ll be in your new location ready to answer as if you haven’t moved. Go ahead and inform the person on the other end of your new phone number. Using NumberGarage you won’t have to go out of your way to tell everyone your new phone number. Besides, you’ll probably need the time to unpack all your boxes or find your new favorite restaurant. Good luck with your move.

Please read our FAQ if you would like more information about forwarding your phone number.

Mobile Phone Subsidies


The new version of Apple’s iPhone has surfaced this week at the Worldwide Developers Conference, and users across the country are excited about getting their hands on the latest upgrade. As we all lead an increasingly mobile lifestyle, the all in one device comes with the ease of being able to work and stay in touch no matter where in the world we may be. However, for many people who upgraded to the latest iPhone version last summer, they may be left out in the cold with higher upgrade prices. The mobile phone companies have made subsidizing phones common practice, and you have to be within a certain portion of your contract to qualify. lays out a handy explanation and charts on mobile phone subsidies on a whole:

Generally, for a two-year contract, U.S. carriers will give you a fixed subsidy per year. In the case of the iPhone and other smartphones with data plans, that subsidy is $200 per year. You sign up for two years, they give you a $400 subsidy. You try to re-up a year early, you only get a $200 subsidy. Seems fair enough to me, but why settle for fair?

As is being widely reported, AT&T lets you have the full $400 subsidy if you re-up after 18 months, giving you a six month re-up period ahead of your contract expiration. Pretty standard, though not explicit, practice among U.S. carriers.

The charts on the site will give you a great view on just how the subsidies work and where your money goes.

San Francisco Citywide WiFi

San-Franisco Map

San Francisco and the surrounding areas are very well known for being the most tech savvy part of the country, and now they have an even bigger reason to wear the crown. 1,100 bus shelters in the city are being outfitted with solar panels and WiFi, which will eventually help cover the area with citywide WiFi. All excellent news for citizens of the city.

The roof is constructed from an innovative 40% post-industrial recycled polycarbonate material embedded with thin-film photovoltaic cells. The panel powers the NextMuni display that tells people when their bus is coming, a Push-To-Talk system so blind people can hear the NextMuni information, environmentally friendly light bulbs, and free Wi-Fi. The old florescent lights in the current shelters use 336 watts; the new LED panels use only 74 watts.

“Transit shelters that use photovoltaics, LEDS, and WiFi are going to be standard in the future and I’m proud that San Francisco is once again acting like the pace car for other cities by trying and implementing these technologies,” said the mayor last week.

The first shelter to roll out is at the corner of Geary and Arguel boulevards in the Richmond District area of San Francisco.

Which Mobile Data Card Is Best For You?

wireless computing

We live such mobile lifestyles these days that not only are people forwarding phone numbers to their mobile device, but also using mobile data cards to work from their laptops anytime, anywhere. Engadget  tested mobile data cards from the nation’s four big mobile networks: AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, and Verizon. In their test, they were looking for overall speed and reliability, as well as where you would get the most bang for your buck out of your data plan. After putting them all through a thorough test, they came to the following conclusion:

Based on coverage alone, we’d select Verizon first (from a national standpoint) and AT&T second. Unfortunately, Verizon was the slowest of the bunch (albeit not by much), and AT&T was the victor by a country mile in terms of Kbps. If it’s speed you’re after (and really, who’s not after speed?), we can’t help but recommend AT&T — if you’re within one of the carrier’s limited 3G areas. The other caveat here is that for whatever reason, AT&T’s reliability — particularly in densely populated areas — has been disreputably suspect. If you’re an existing AT&T user and can’t seem to get a solid 3G signal on your smartphone where you’re at, don’t expect a LaptopConnect card to act any differently. Frankly, that goes for all carriers. Aside from T-Mobile, which just doesn’t have the coverage to compete right now, you can hardly go wrong with any of these options. But as our speed tests have shown, you’d need a darn good excuse to avoid AT&T if the coverage and reliability is right.

If your life is quickly turning mobile, be sure and check out their entire breakdown of mobile data cards.