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ICSTIS wants your views on anonymous SMS

Regulating text flirting

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

UK premium-rate regulator ICSTIS has published a consultation document on anonymous SMS services, and is looking for feedback by 7 September.

A few services will, for a fee, send an SMS message anonymously - for the purposes of flirting or practical jokes. ICSTIS said it's only ever had one complaint about misuse of such services, but the potential is obvious.

A header in every anonymous message might work fine for flirting sites, but would detract from the practical joke value, so ICSTIS has suggested an immediate follow-up message should be sent identifying the service - limiting the duration, if not the impact, of text-driven jokes.

ICSTIS also wants companies to keep copies of all messages for 12 months, in case of legal dispute, and suggests they should be licensed to run any anonymous SMS service with a "prior permission" costing £352.50.

The idea of filtering messages by content was rejected by ICSTIS, which rather coyly admitted that content that is offensive to one person might be flirting to another.

ICSTIS only controls services which are paid for by premium-rate numbers: services that take PayPal, credit cards, or other forms of payment are outside its remit. Callers might also switch off calling line ID to send anonymous messages direct.

All this smacks slightly of a regulator looking for something to regulate, and wanting to seem more proactive given the recent scandals surrounding premium-rate services. ®

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