Typing Telephone Numbers Into Google.com Can Return Maps to the Number’s AddressTruth!



Summary of eRumor:

This is a warning that the search engine at www.google.com has a feature that will map the location of a telephone number.  It suggests having Google remove your number so anyone with harmful motives will not be able to use the feature against you.

The Truth:

This is one of those eRumors that focuses on a non-sinister feature of the Internet and makes it sound sinister.  We have not been able to find any evidence that any law enforcement agency has issued any warnings about the Google search for phone numbers.   

Google.com is one of the most versatile search engines on the Internet.  One of the features built into Google is the ability to conveniently look up information from the White Pages of any telephone book.  If you type a name, address, and city of a person with a listed phone number, you will probably get that person’s White Pages listing which includes the telephone number.  As an added feature, Google includes a couple of mapping services in case you want to look up the location.  In the same way, you can enter the telephone number alone and if it is a listed number, you’ll get the complete listing including the address and, if desired, the mapping to that address.

The problem with the eRumor is that it makes it sound as though this is priviledged information, which it is not.  It’s the same information that could be gotten from a phone book or directory assistance.  It also makes it sound as though the feature is specifically for the purpose of entering a phone number and finding a map.  It is not.  The feature finds all the listed information about phone number and includes the mapping if you choose it.

If, for some reason, you do not wish for your information to be available through Google, you can, as the eRumor describes, click the telephone icon next to your information and they will remove you from their database, but that means very little.  The reason the information is there is because it’s public and removing it from Google doesn’t prevent anyone from having it.  They can go to the telephone book, directory assistance, or any of the other pages on the Internet that have name, address, and telephone information.  If you don’t want the information to be public, contact your telephone provider and ask about an unlisted number or a number that does not list your address.

A real example of the eRumor as it has appeared on the Internet:

One of our employees is married to a state policeman and she forwarded
this to everyone in our firm. I thought it might be a joike, so I tried
it…I went to Google, put in my home phone number, and sure enough,
there was a map directly to my house. I thought I would pass it on to
everyone in my email list because this capability is an invasion of
privacy at the least and could — as noted in the below message – be
dangerous. You’ll note that I am sending this out alphabetically so
there is no particular reason for your getting it first…other than
alphabet positioning. If you feel this is a problem, you may want to
try it yourself at http://www.google.com and you may want to pass it
along to others who you feel might be concerned also.

Here is the message that was originally sent by an ATF guy:

“There is a new feature that makes it possible to type a telephone
into Google’s search bar, click the search button, and have a MapQuest
returned as a result. Any person wishing to discover the physical
of a phone number, be it a home or business address, could use this
to locate a physical street address,and receive explicit directions on
to get there from anywhere in the country.

One positive use of this feature could be to determine the location
say, an adverse party for whom you may only have a telephone number. On
negative note, this feature could also be used by an angry party to
find out
where you live.

Google has made available an option that will allow anyone to remove
telephone number from the database that is linked to the mapping
You will first need to check if your number is listed in this manner
attempting a search – entering your full telephone number separated by
dashes (e.g., 404-524-5811). If the number appears in the mapping
an icon resembling a telephone will appear next to the first or second
on the results page. Clicking on this icon will take you to a page
containing a description of the service, and a link to request your
be removed from the database.”