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Mobile directory blames press for latest failure

Absolutely, definitely not due to a privacy backlash

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The operator of a new directory of private mobile phone numbers has blamed the press for its rushed launch and subsequent technical problems, which have seen the service shut down indefinitely.

Connectivity, which runs the 118800 telephone service and website, today denied reports it had been forced to suspend it by a deluge of public requests to remove information from its database. A press representative said the company was contacting publications who made the claim to demand corrections.

Instead, the spokeswoman said Connectivity was suffering technical problems caused by a rushed launch. She said it had lost two weeks of testing because of pre-launch press reports.

The launch of 118800 on June 18 sparked widespread privacy concerns. To fill its directory, Connectivity had purchased lists of about 15 million names and mobile numbers from marketing companies. Before it was suspended, users of the service were asked for a name and home town of the person they wanted to contact. Connectivity would then call the target and ask if they wanted to be connected.

Although it did not give out numbers to users, many felt the directory represented an unacceptable intrusion. A viral email campaign encouraged people to apply to have their information removed.

"You can remove your number from this list, and tell all your friends - especially those with children who have mobile phones. None of us agreed to this when we signed our mobile phone contracts," one example warned.

Connectivity bought mobile marketing lists after legal threats failed to extract customer information from mobile operators 18 months ago.

Despite the privacy backlash, the Connectivity spokeswoman said it was "absolutely not" the cause of the downtime. She said there was no indication of when service would be restored and could not provide any details of the problems.

A message on the 118800 website reads: "The 118800 service for mobile phone connections is currently unavailable - from this website and by phone - whilst we undertake major developments to our 'Beta Service' to improve the experience for our customers. We'll be back as soon as possible with the new improved service.

"All ex-directory requests made by people in our directory to date are being processed. There will be no need to resend these requests. And we will take further ex-directory requests when the service resumes. We will not be taking ex-directory requests by phone or text whilst the service is not operational."

Whatever the cause of the current downtime, it piles further pressure on Connectivity, which is backed by millions in venture capital. The service also collapsed almost immediately when it launched. ®

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