NEW YORK, NY – Back in the day, your standard-edition print White Pages directory included pretty much any and every landline-based phone number of every person around, unless they specifically went out of their way to acquire an unlisted number. That’s just the way things were, and cracking open the White Pages was quite simply the only way to find people at the time.
Fast-forward to today, and the print White Page directory has become something of a relic with the passage of time and the advance of technology. With the advent of cell phones, people have relied less and less on landline telephones in their residences and more and more on mobile devices…to the point that some homes don’t use landline phones at all, anymore. In fact, approximately 51 percent of American homes are currently “wireless only,” with older demographics more likely to still use a landline phone.
But the main difference is that cell phone numbers are not typically made available to the public, and this fact exists for a number of different reasons, the main one being that most cell phone carriers allow their customers a set number of minutes a month (depending on the plan they use), and charge them overage fees for every minute they go over after they’re used up; having cell number publicly available would likely lead to a vast number of calls from telemarketers and other unwanted intrusions, which would eat up those precious minutes quickly. However, in recent years, most carriers have been switching to standard calling plans with unlimited minutes for many of their customers, rendering this issue moot for the most part.
However, there remains another factor that currently keeps most cell numbers private- it’s what their owners want, quite frankly. However, it’s very easy for a private cell phone number to be made public; chances are, yours already is, unfortunately. Given the use of the internet by most people, be it social media, online applications, web-based retailers, or countless other sources, you’re typically putting your contact information out there each and every day, and as they used to say, “loose lips sink ships.” That is, eventually your contact information will get out there, and there’s not much you can do about it, short of going completely “off the grid” and eschewing digital interactions altogether, which in this day and age is easier said than done.
The fact that the public is clearly and decisively shifting away from landline phone use in favor of cell phones is causing an issue in terms of the White Pages– while landline phone numbers are included in directories by default, the same obviously does not hold true for wireless numbers. So, as the number of landline-based options shrinks, so does the ability for people to get in touch with one another if they need to unless they have been personally bequeathed their cell number. Sometimes this is a good thing, but in the event of an emergency or other urgent occurrence, the lack of a publicly-accessible phone number can cause problems. In addition, some local municipalities have alert systems in place that can text vital information to residents in case of a disaster; this leaves those with private numbers out of the loop when they may desperately need to be in it.
Therefore, in light of now-commonplace unlimited phone plans and the fact that many so-called “private” cell phone numbers are bleeding out into the public anyway, an argument could easily be made in favor of the establishment of an official, public cell phone White Pages that would be officially monitored with oversight to ensure that abuse will be kept at a bare minimum. After all, by 2020 it is anticipated that over two billion people worldwide will be using cell phones to communicate, so it might be worth thinking about creating a way to catalog and arrange all of that data into an accessible form, but only if it’s done in a responsible way to safeguard contact information.
Of course, not everyone will want their cell numbers public, and that’s very understandable; such a database should be an opt-in affair only. But for those who are willing, there are currently many legitimate ones available where users can manually enter their contact information, making it searchable by those who may need to get in touch with them, especially in regards to something of great importance. And, of course, there are safeguards in place to make sure that information is not misused…at least, not any more than it already is through years of online shopping and social media use.