Fulfilling a Need

Interesting that this is the only domain where this kind of attention to information management has developed so broadly: Here’s My Number (for Today)

In an age of information oversharing, the mobile-phone number is one of the few pieces of personal information that people still choose to guard. Unwanted incoming calls are intrusive and time-consuming and can suck precious daytime cell-plan minutes. And the decision to give out a cell number can haunt you for years, as people now hold on to the numbers longer than their land-line numbers.

Some people have found a way to avoid compromising the sanctity of their cellphone without committing the modern sin of being unreachable. Instead of giving out her cell number, Ms. McClain has recently been dispersing what has become known as a “social phone number.”

This is a free number that is as disposable as a Hotmail address. A handful of Web sites are creating these mask numbers, which can be obtained in nearly every area code (users can either have a number in their own region, or make it look as if they have an office in New York City when they are actually operating out of rural Maine).

These sites buy numbers in bulk at a discount, then generate profit by displaying ads and getting users of the free service to upgrade to billable plans with features like call forwarding, call blocking and outbound calling.