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Old 11 May 2019, 11:06 PM   #5
Cornerstone of the Community
Join Date: Jul 2009
Posts: 871
When I created a rediffmail address for a family member some years ago, I used a disposable as the alternate email address out of necessity. Now an intercept page pesters for an update and a mobile number, although one can still click "ignore and go to inbox." As the disposable of course is long-defunct and the family member now has a usable alternative address (which wasn't the case long ago), it seemed sensible to change the disposable to a functional address, but rediffmail will not permit this unless one also provides a mobile number. It's both or nothing. Why do some providers fixate on this? It has been pointed out in this forum that a number is essentially useless insofar as increasing email security is concerned.

In any case, some people prefer to keep their mobile numbers private. Some years ago, there was a thread here about providing a mobile number when creating an email account. As always, some posters thought that those who did not want to provide a number were unreasonable or illogical. One of them asked:
Do you value your cell number more than your e-mails?
If you don't trust them with your cell number, why trust them with your e-mails?

I searched for this old exchange in hopes of providing just a link to it here but could not find it, so I'll quote my reply, which I feel is still relevant, and which also applies to my family member's reluctance to provide a mobile number to rediffmail after all these years. It is much more complicated than a matter of "trust" regarding the mobile number.


In my view, it is not that simple at all, because there are many different levels of value and of (semi)-privacy that each individual tends to place on the use and contents of any given email account.

I grant in advance that nobody has real or absolute privacy on the Internet, especially against a determined hacker or an official agency, so that's not what I mean. I'm talking about generalized comfort levels. Just as one tends to adjust the level of specific or "real" information that one willingly reveals in different places on line, the same thing is true of different email accounts. The same thing can definitely *not* be said, however, about a mobile phone number, because the information it inherently reveals is greater by many orders of magnitude.

It seems to me that asking "Do you value your cell number more than your e-mails? If you don't trust them with your cell number, why trust them with your e-mails?" sets up an erroneous equivalence. Someone might "trust" Yahoo (or any other provider) with casual emails, but not necessarily with a full name, home address, work address, financial information, and so on. Giving a mobile number surrenders all of that information for most people, since we usually receive our mobile telephone bills at our homes or offices and pay them with credit cards or from bank accounts. In European countries, even people who use prepaid phones must provide real information that they wouldn't necessarily want Yahoo or any provider and all of its "partners" to have. Why should Yahoo et al. have all the demographic and personal information available from such a source, which nowadays also means buying habits, political affiliations, sexual interests, income level, type of neighborhood where one lives, the value of one's house and often even a picture of it, the names of one's neighbors, and a great deal more.

And please, I hope nobody replies by observing that we already have no privacy or anonymity anyway, or by citing the old canard to the effect that "Why would you care if you have nothing to hide?"

Everything is relative. It is true that we have already surrendered a frightening amount of privacy both online and elsewhere, and that very little about our lives can realistically be kept truly private these days, but that doesn't mean we should feel comfortable about it, or that we should willingly give away personal information just because somebody asks for it. If that were the case and doing so conferred any real benefit, then every member of EMD would use a real name and put a home address in the "location" field, but we don't do that, nor would we appreciate being told that providing it was conditional for joining the forum, even if the information were not publicly displayed. That doesn't mean we don't trust Edwin or that we have something to hide, only that we value a commonsensical degree of semi-privacy and would feel uncomfortable surrendering it.

Most of us use different email accounts for different purposes. We reserve one or more accounts for very personal communication and use others for more general and casual use, no matter how innocent that may be. The same thing applies to the amount of information we feel comfortable providing when we open and maintain those accounts.

Email accounts are simply not equivalent to mobile phone numbers in terms of privacy, not even close. Mobile phone numbers are much more closely tied to the most intimate details of someone's "real" life, and they provide an easy portal in that direction. That is why many users will never give out a mobile number to Google or Yahoo or any other provider, as a matter of principle. What might be gained in what is mostly an illusion of "security" is more than lost in a needless surrender of a sort of privacy that is still very real.

In my view, that is the appropriate equation in terms of calculating matters like "value" and "trust" in this particular context.

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