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Shsssh! Google Voice has 1.4 million users

PDF error spills confidential count

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Despite the fact that Google Voice remains an "invitation only" service, it has grown to well over 1.4 million users with a cool 570,000 folks using it daily.

But you're not supposed to know that.

As The Reg reported yesterday, Google on Wednesday sent a letter to the US Federal Communications Commission in response to the FCC's questions about, among other things, Google's blocking of certain rural phone numbers from using Google Voice.

The public version of that letter was supposed to have had chunks of sensitive info redacted and replaced by empty sections bracketed by "Begin Confidential" and "End Confidential."

But not in the copy that BusinessWeek got their hands on.

The BW folks were able to read the redacted data just fine. The reason? Well, as Google explained: "Unfortunately, the PDF submitted to the FCC was formatted improperly." It appears that to err is not only human, it's also Googly.

When the error was discovered, the FCC quickly replaced the errant PDF with a properly formatted version. "As soon as we discovered Google's error, we removed the document from the Web site and posted a new one," an FCC spokesman told BusinessWeek.

Too late. The proverbial cat had escaped from the proverbial bag. To their credit, however, the high-minded BW pros suppressed their guffaws when reporting on the redacted user-base information.

BW also notes that a separate intended-to-be-confidential section of the FCC letter includes a hint that Google is thinking of expanding Google Voice outside of the US. "In another redacted section," they write, "Google hints at the prospect of going global with Google Voice. Google says it has signed contracts with a number of 'international service providers for inputs to Google Voice.' It goes on to say that 'none of the contracted services have yet' been launched."

Despite Google's protestations to the FCC that it isn't a telecommunications service and thus isn't subject to regulations placed on such services by the US Communications Act, with 1.4 million current users and with intimations of global expansion, it's certainly beginning to look like one.

If it looks like a telecom, quacks like a telecom, and walks like a telecom, Google deserves to be treated like a telecom.

Even if it's an error-prone one - and one with 1.4 million current users. ®

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