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October 2, 2010 3:15 PM   Subscribe

In August, Google added a feature to Gmail that lets you make phone calls — for free, if you live in the US or Canada and you're calling someone in the US or Canada. When you make a call, your number shows up as 760-705-8888. Judging by the nine pages of complaints found here, the service is often being used to prank, harass and scam people.

This Google query brings up many similar complaints.
posted by defenestration (60 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
No one could have predicted...
posted by furiousxgeorge at 3:22 PM on October 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


What kind of untraceable scamming/harassment is possible with the service that you can't already commit with a disposable cell phone?

I'd hate to lose this service because of these assholes. I have been able to call American clients and sit through lengthy conference calls without it costing me a cent. And I can finally get in touch with relatives in both countries without it costing an arm and a leg.

And maybe this will finally get Google to offer the full Voice service -- with real, unique, traceable phone numbers -- in Canada as well as the States.
posted by maudlin at 3:25 PM on October 2, 2010 [12 favorites]


And, blocking caller ID is different how? We've always had a way to block caller ID using *67. Why is this worse?
posted by HuronBob at 3:28 PM on October 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think we all know what we have to do: restrict all communication to opening up the window and yelling. Godspeed.
posted by jonmc at 3:32 PM on October 2, 2010 [12 favorites]


I like this comment from the Who Calls Me thread:

This is a Gmail. Computer phone number
posted by domnit at 3:35 PM on October 2, 2010


It's come to the point that if Google gave everyone a million dollars, negotiated world peace, and cleaned up the environment, they would be suspect.
posted by HuronBob at 3:37 PM on October 2, 2010 [9 favorites]


It's sad, really, that generations after mine will never know the pleasure of an evening with friends, a phone with multiple lines, conference call capability, and no way for the recipients of the people you call, conference, and then listen to to find out the identity of the caller or even to block "anonymous" calls. It's like they cannot even imagine the possibilities.

But I guess it makes life as a low-level employee at Dominos Pizza easier if you never pick up the ringing phone only to find that the guy on the other end of the line is your counterpart at Little Caesar's who also picked up the ringing phone and is now arguing with you about who called whom.

Not that I would know anything about that.
posted by The World Famous at 3:38 PM on October 2, 2010 [20 favorites]


It's come to the point that if Google gave everyone a million dollars, negotiated world peace, and cleaned up the environment, they would be suspect.

"Do you guys remember life before everything was Googlefied? Sure, everything sucked and we were scared shitless, but it was so much more real."
posted by defenestration at 3:39 PM on October 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


And people are using it to prank? I hope they realize Google's logging this, just like everything else anyone does on their services. I bet they wouldn't mind handing over the records to police, if asked.
posted by deezil at 3:46 PM on October 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


well this is just about the tipping point right here time to get on board with michael hayden and give the president an internet kill switch
posted by indubitable at 3:46 PM on October 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


What kind of untraceable scamming/harassment is possible with the service that you can't already commit with a disposable cell phone?
Are disposable cellphones free?
posted by delmoi at 3:48 PM on October 2, 2010



What kind of untraceable scamming/harassment is possible with the service that you can't already commit with a disposable cell phone?


The kind you do on the spur of the moment late at night when you are drunk/stoned/bored/etc. If it requires waiting until the next day, driving to the store, paying money for a cell phone, etc, most people won't bother. This service takes all of the barriers out of the process.
posted by Forktine at 3:49 PM on October 2, 2010


give the president an internet kill switch

I know what this phrase means.

But in my mind, I always picture a website that only the President has access to where there's a big button that says "KILL," and if he clicks the button, it randomly kills someone somewhere in the world.

But then I remember that's silly because the President already has that, so why would it even be up for debate?
posted by The World Famous at 3:52 PM on October 2, 2010 [7 favorites]


The president actually has a button that can kill all life on the planet.
posted by empath at 3:54 PM on October 2, 2010 [4 favorites]


He probably has a private line to the pizzeria, too, I'll bet.
posted by jonmc at 3:56 PM on October 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


I guess you'll find out how easy this to trace once someone uses it to make a questionable terrorist threat. I'm guessing the FBI/DHS will be knocking on your door within an hour.
posted by JJ86 at 3:56 PM on October 2, 2010


The president actually has a button that can kill all life on the planet.

And we survived till 2008?
posted by The Lady is a designer at 3:57 PM on October 2, 2010


Jesus Christ, these derails are getting tiresome.
posted by teraflop at 4:00 PM on October 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


Hey, 760 used to be my old area code.
posted by Dreamcast at 4:06 PM on October 2, 2010


"Excuse me, is your Windows Vista running?"

"Do you have Prince Albert in a JPEG?"
posted by Saxon Kane at 4:16 PM on October 2, 2010 [13 favorites]


I'm surprised they'd use a California area code for their ANI. We use a South Dakota ANI when we need to stuff ANIs for customers who send non-conforming caller IDs.
posted by kmz at 4:33 PM on October 2, 2010


restrict all communication to opening up the window and yelling.

I was recently pranked by some teenagers who yelled out the window that they were looking for a Mr. File, Peter File. Was I embarrassed!

We need to seal all windows shut.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 4:33 PM on October 2, 2010 [5 favorites]


So, now we can now call the Tube Bar through a series of tubes?
posted by Tube at 4:34 PM on October 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


>> ... Mr. File, Peter File.

This joke only works in non-rhotic regions.
posted by Bruce H. at 4:39 PM on October 2, 2010 [10 favorites]


The president actually has a button that can kill all life on the planet.

And we survived till 2008?


That sort of depends on what you mean by "we," I think.
posted by The World Famous at 4:51 PM on October 2, 2010


what you mean by "we,"

the human race
posted by The Lady is a designer at 4:53 PM on October 2, 2010


I like this comment from the Who Calls Me thread:
This is a Gmail. Computer phone number


I kinda prefer this one:

Please do not call my numbers anymore!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
posted by dersins at 4:54 PM on October 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


set a custom ringtone, which is just one second of silence. add the number to your contacts and set that ringtone.
posted by thilmony at 5:35 PM on October 2, 2010


So... the big question this service raises is "WHO WAS PHONE?"

Of course some of the calls are probably from rogue AIs within Google. You pick up and just hear heavy printing, or an uncannily smooth voice that asks you if you're feeling lucky.
posted by No-sword at 5:36 PM on October 2, 2010 [6 favorites]



The president actually has a button that can kill all life on the planet.

Yayyyy!. Palin for pres. Bachman for VP and O'Donnell for Sec. of State.

I'm not a scaredy cat. Bring em on.
posted by notreally at 6:06 PM on October 2, 2010


Google added a feature to Gmail that lets you make phone calls — for free

You and I understand the word "free" in very different ways.
posted by tapesonthefloor at 6:13 PM on October 2, 2010


Well, in fairness, it's not just a button. There are codes to remember and stuff like that, and I have some serious doubts about the ability of Sarah Palin to remember a string of numbers and/or letters any longer than a four-digit PIN.

Besides, she will be way too busy trying to track down all of the "secret" stuff she saw in the National Treasure movies to ever have time to launch a nuclear strike. By the time she figures out that the Resolute Desk isn't actually a giant combination lock secret box for an ancient treasure map and that the "President's Secret Book" is not real, her first and second term will be up and it will be time for Jenna Bush's innauguration.
posted by The World Famous at 6:15 PM on October 2, 2010


How does google profit from this?
posted by morganannie at 6:15 PM on October 2, 2010


I just used this to talk to my parents for about half a hour and was really surprised at how clear the connection sounded.
posted by Robin Kestrel at 6:26 PM on October 2, 2010


How does google profit from this?

Google's users are the product that Google sells for money. The more users, the more money they make selling access to those users. The more services Google provides, the more users it gets. And the more deeply entangled Google's users become in terms of both usage and in terms of giving Google access to information like their location, their likes and interests, their shopping habits, and yes, the phone calls they like to make, the more valuable each user is as a product for Google to sell.
posted by The World Famous at 6:27 PM on October 2, 2010 [5 favorites]


negotiated world peace, and cleaned up the environment, they would be suspect.

Oh, The AntiChrist.
posted by ovvl at 6:31 PM on October 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm grateful for this post simply for pointing me to WhoCallsMe. What an insane site. It appears to exist wholly for the purpose of allowing people to exchange completely uninformed speculation about who might be calling them from any given number.

Frequently, it is inadvertently hilarious.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 6:37 PM on October 2, 2010 [4 favorites]


maudlin writes "What kind of untraceable scamming/harassment is possible with the service that you can't already commit with a disposable cell phone?"

Caller ID is ridiculously easy to spoof; Google's service is lowering the bar but it's not like even Hermes could limbo under it before.

kmz writes "I'm surprised they'd use a California area code for their ANI. We use a South Dakota ANI when we need to stuff ANIs for customers who send non-conforming caller IDs."

ANI is different than Caller ID. Ani is a lot harder to spoof because it is used for billing.
posted by Mitheral at 7:05 PM on October 2, 2010


A lot of those complaints don't seem to be about actual pranks; they're just people freaking out about seeing a number on Caller ID that they don't recognize. That's weird and sad thing to panic about. Do these people live in a world where they never call a person they haven't called before?
posted by faster than a speeding bulette at 7:17 PM on October 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


You and I understand the word "free" in very different ways.

What understanding of the word "free" doesn't encompass the lack of requirement to pay of calling from gmail?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 7:21 PM on October 2, 2010


How does google profit from this?

New Google phone service whispers targeted ads directly into users' ears

Quote: "Users won't remember the last time when a second voice was whispering in their ear."
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:24 PM on October 2, 2010


>How does google profit from this?

Google's users are the product that Google sells for money. The more users, the more money they make selling access to those users. The more services Google provides, the more users it gets. And the more deeply entangled Google's users become in terms of both usage and in terms of giving Google access to information like their location, their likes and interests, their shopping habits, and yes, the phone calls they like to make, the more valuable each user is as a product for Google to sell.


I thought all of their products (Gmail, Maps, Docs) are rolled out to ensure Google stays #1 in Search, which means people will continue to pay Google for advertising, its core business.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:26 PM on October 2, 2010


Dials 760-705-8888


Ring...ring...ring....

"Yeah? Who's this?"

"Yes, I was wondering, is this the Promiscuous Masturbating squirrels thread??"

"Nah, you've got the wrong number. The Promiscuous Masturbating Squirrels thread is over here."

"Oh, thanks."

"No problem."
posted by Skygazer at 7:49 PM on October 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


"Do you have Prince Albert in a JPEG?"

Do you know how hard it is to find a JPEG on the web that doesn't have a Prince Albert in it?
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:53 PM on October 2, 2010


"Do you have Prince Albert in a JPEG?"

"You do? Well, you better decompress him into something lossless!"
posted by strixus at 8:18 PM on October 2, 2010 [25 favorites]


That sounded really funny in my head. Sorry.
posted by strixus at 8:18 PM on October 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


What understanding of the word "free" doesn't encompass the lack of requirement to pay of calling from gmail?

The cost of the computer and internet access?
posted by dhens at 4:11 AM on October 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


You pick up and just hear heavy printing, or an uncannily smooth voice that asks you if you're feeling lucky.

So... what are you computing?

*hard disk thrashing noises*
posted by Evilspork at 3:42 PM on October 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Used it. At least half a dozen times. Wondering two things: how does Google profit from it? how long until they pull the plug on it. Also, if Google can provide this service for free, then it pretty well confirms that the telecom companies are raping us all with wild abandon.
posted by fartknocker at 8:27 PM on October 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


Even better, Gmail lets you send a free SMS to Safaricom subscribers in Kenya ;p (via @whiteafrican)

Wonder what their global communication intent is? To dig gaping holes under mobile operators around the world till the whole garden wall caves in? heh ;p
posted by The Lady is a designer at 2:20 AM on October 4, 2010


I have never gotten a prank call as a result of Google Voice. I have, however, gotten a call from a baby.
posted by Astro Zombie at 5:30 AM on October 4, 2010


My phone number used to by XYY-YYYY. We got calls from babies all the time. Until 10-digit-dialing came in.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 1:06 PM on October 4, 2010


fartknocker: Also, if Google can provide this service for free, then it pretty well confirms that the telecom companies are raping us all with wild abandon.

Yes. Yes. Absolutely. It's just so wrong and so crazy. If there is a Hell, there's got to be a level for Verizon execs who get killed over an over by a million tiny cuts oozing dimes....
posted by Skygazer at 1:30 PM on October 4, 2010


I'm grateful for this post simply for pointing me to WhoCallsMe. What an insane site. It appears to exist wholly for the purpose of allowing people to exchange completely uninformed speculation about who might be calling them from any given number.

It's really useful for figuring out where debt collectors are calling from.

Oh and my old school calls me every once in a while from an 800 number, so it helped then too.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 6:54 AM on October 5, 2010


Also, if Google can provide this service for free, then it pretty well confirms that the telecom companies are raping us all with wild abandon.

Google doesn't provide support if your calls don't work. If we basically told our customers 'good luck' every time they made a call, we could practically give it away for free, too.
posted by empath at 7:00 AM on October 5, 2010


Google doesn't provide support...

Yeah, that's true. (Don't get me started about Google Ananlytics) But the "support" I've enjoyed from AT&T in the past hardly justifies the price differential.
posted by fartknocker at 8:07 AM on October 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


The cost of the computer and internet access?

Well, technically you could go to the library and make a free call from there, provided your library provides free internet, and allows access to Gmail, and has a microphone/speakers.

But come on - if you want to use that argument, you have to say that NOBODY that provides ANYTHING on the internet free of charge is doing it for free, technically, because you require a computer and internet access. In that case, it's technically impossible to EVER make a free phone call, because it requires some sort of phone, and a phone line.
posted by antifuse at 1:36 PM on October 5, 2010


and a phone line.

*cough*
posted by The Lady is a designer at 1:51 PM on October 5, 2010


and a phone line.

*cough*


Whether wired or wireless, it requires a line.
posted by The World Famous at 1:53 PM on October 5, 2010


oh ok, a connection or signal. terminology confusion {comment redacted}
posted by The Lady is a designer at 2:41 PM on October 5, 2010


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