Sun | Jul 22, 2018

Private numbers exposed - FLOW customers' personal information inadvertently released in Yellow Pages

Published:Tuesday | December 20, 2016 | 12:00 AMJovan Johnson

The full scale has not been revealed, but telecommunications company FLOW is scrambling to explain to perhaps hundreds of customers why their telephone numbers and other data that have been private, in some cases for almost a quarter of a century, have been released in the 2017 Yellow Pages telephone directory.

Among those whose information has been listed are senior government ministers and top business leaders.

The issue has been a major concern to customers, one of whom said responses from FLOW, that they may have to change their numbers to go back on the private listing that they pay to maintain, is "unfair".

"I found out about it last night when I received a call from FLOW to say that they had inadvertently listed my two private numbers in the 2017 directory," said a residential customer who requested that his name not be published.

"I don't yet have a copy of the 2017 directory, but I called a friend of mine who also had a private listing and she told me that both her name and mine are in the directory; so, it is pretty widespread, I would think."

FLOW declined to speak much on the issue.

In a statement to The Gleaner, FLOW cited the "sensitivities" around the issue.

"FLOW Jamaica regrets the inclusion of the private listing of some customers in the 2016-2017 telephone directory. We unreservedly apologise for this," the company said.

Ian Neita, the chief executive officer of Global Directories, the publishers of the directory, declined to speak and directed all queries to FLOW.

However, the customer with whom The Gleaner spoke is not satisfied with the response so far, adding that the proposal to change a number he said he had suppressed as private for at least the last 25 years, to go back on the private listing, was not fair.

"My numbers have been private from Jamaica Telephone Company days. I have a feeling that something fundamentally went wrong and all of a sudden all private numbers are now in the public domain. My bill every month reflects a charge for the private listing. When I called them (FLOW) to hear their take, their best suggestion was that I change my number. Even if I change my number, I have no guarantee that it will be privately listed," the customer said.

FLOW customers currently pay $2,400 per year to keep their numbers private.

"Somebody needs to get a meaningful explanation from them as to why this has happened and what is the feasible remedy for the situation."

On that, FLOW maintained it could not divulge details of the situation.

"We wish to assure our customers that we value their privacy and are taking all the necessary steps to address this as quickly as possible and prevent a recurrence."