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Thursday, September 2

A blessing and a curse 

I've generally had mixed feelings about Caller ID. Using it on my cell phone, I can definitely see the advantages of the technology. Still, I've objected since the beginning about forcing everyone to participate in the system where individuals are instantly identified.

I may seem like an old-school fuddy-duddy, but I think there's some merit to being able to personally identify myself on the phone. What if, in the course of doing my job as a journalist, someone won't answer the phone because the newspaper's name is emblazoned across their display?

I've never heard of it happening before, but I do employ a combo of calling methods to reach a source that's hard to get ahold of. I always identify myself as a reporter, but I'd like the option of doing it personally as a human being instead of an electronic switch shutting me out.

It is possible to block your outgoing ID on many calls except law enforcement and emergencies. Some states allow total ID blocking (like California), some require users to block their number during every call (like Michigan).

And it is worth acknowledging that Caller ID blocking has the potential for abuse from cretins like telemarketers and stalkers. Still the technology is neutral, it's the human application of the innovation where the potential for abuse is introduced.

Case in point, there's some new Caller ID spoofing technology being launched this week. The Detroit Free Press' Mike Wendland has more details on e-mail spammers resorting to landlines, and spoofing their ID, to spread their message. The technology is apparently geared toward helping private investigators and creditors to do their jobs.

It will be interesting to see if spammers who like to pretend they're from the bank will try their tricks out on telephones. If anything, I suppose it's another reason to be certain we know who we're talking to and not merely rely on the technology on hand.

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