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BT introduces 1475 erasure service to meet privacy law

Customers of BT will be familiar with its 1471 “call return” service which identifies the date, time and number of the last caller. However, out of concern that the service was breaching the UK’s Data Protection Act of 1998, a new service allows customers to delete the information of their last caller.20 May 2002

The Times reported on the new 1475 service last week and speculated that it will “frustrate spouses who suspect their partner of infidelity.” The newspaper put this point to BT and a spokesman for the company replied: “We were compelled to introduce the service under the Act. We can’t be held responsible for how people choose to utilise it. The service isn’t something we have actively marketed.”

The free service is not intended to protect the privacy of the caller; the caller can already choose to withhold his or her number from the 1471 service. This can be done permanently, by dialling 150, or on a per-call basis, by prefixing the dialled number with 141.

Instead, the new service protects the privacy of the recipient of a call, who is likely to use the service only where he shares the telephone line with others from whom he wants to hide the details of calls received.