Ina Fried

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Developer Claims Google Forced It to Drop Crowdsourced Caller ID From Android App

Start-up Mr. Number on Tuesday bemoaned the fact it was forced to pull a crowdsourced Caller ID feature out of its Android app.

In a blog post, Mr. Number said that the move was the result of a policy change from Google.

“More than two years after we launched Mr. Number for Android, Google has decided that our app does not comply with their latest content policy and has ordered us to turn off our crowd-sourced Caller ID feature,” the company said. “Google has told us that you, our users, cannot share your contact lists for Caller ID even if you believe you have your contacts’ permission. Although Google approved the feature as recently as last month, we have no choice but to turn off crowd-sourced Caller ID for now, because Android is not the open platform that we thought it was.”

The feature was always a bit controversial because it allowed a user to share the contact names and numbers in their address book with the service, essentially giving anyone with a phone number in their contacts the control over whether that name and number were shared, rather than the person to whom the number belongs.

For its part, Mr. Number said it always asked users to make sure they had their contacts’ permission and noted that other services, such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Google itself also grab such information.

Mr. Number said that it was contacted by Google in July and that the company expressed several concerns, including the fact that contacts weren’t themselves giving permission for their information to be shared with the service.

Google declined to comment specifically on Mr. Number, but the company did make a policy change last month that prohibited not only the publishing, but also the disclosure, of private and confidential information.

Mr. Number said it will continue to provide Caller ID using commercially available sources, but noted it won’t be as exhaustive. The company will also stop charging for its premium service.

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work