Home » Two years of opposition register: 5 billion numbers checked, but something is still wrong

Two years of opposition register: 5 billion numbers checked, but something is still wrong

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Two years of opposition register: 5 billion numbers checked, but something is still wrong

30 million registered numbers. Five billion verified contacts. A thousand telemarketers who contact the public register of objections every year. Two years have passed since its establishment. Two years from when citizens can ask for their number to be registered in the Registry (RPO) and avoid unwanted calls from companies offering services, promotions and commercial news.

The RPO is a difficult task. Established on 14 April 2022 by the Ministry of Economic Development (now of Made in Italy) and entrusted to the private but public law body, Ugo Bordoni Foundation. The Registry has been talked about often since it was established. And especially since the possibility of registering for mobile numbers has expanded. Fundamental tool for telemarketing. The most effective for targeting promotional campaigns and seeking immediate conversion into contracts for companies, new signed offers, new subscription plans.

Despite the widespread diffusion of new communication tools, the telephone number today is a very precious tool. It is fundamental personal data for an entire telephone contact industry. Which concerns companies, contracts signed with customers, privacy management, personal data brokers and cyber criminals hunting for holes in servers to be able to extract personal information of people and companies. A very complicated chain, between lawful and unlawful, which is the basis of a series of problems with the functioning of the Registry itself, often regardless of the effectiveness of its tools.

How the public opposition register works (and how it is financed).

The request to register a mobile number (or landline) is managed by the Foundation. In fact, a list of numbers that do not wish to be contacted for telemarketing. This list is compared from time to time with the lists of telephone numbers that an operator (a company, or a call center) decides to launch a promotion campaign. Companies are obliged to go through the Foundation before starting the campaign itself. They must cross-reference their numbers with those in the Registry.

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Doing so has a cost. One thousandth of a euro per number checked. Money that goes into the Foundation’s coffers. A company is incentivized to go through the Register because only in this way is it certain that it can avoid contacting numbers it shouldn’t and avoid fines from the Guarantor. Only after having uploaded the data (on the platform via certified email) and having received a response on the numbers from the Foundation can you proceed to contact the free numbers. In the Foundation’s response there are two pieces of data next to each telephone number: whether it is registered in the Register or not; if yes, since when you registered. And here is the first major issue which concerns the correct functioning of the tool designed by the Ministry of Development.

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The importance of the date of registration in the register: consequences of outdated numbers

When a citizen requests registration, he does so by asking to no longer be contacted by the companies to which he has given the possibility of being contacted during – for example – the signing of a contract, or the purchase of an asset, or the registration in a gym, a spa, a language course. The famous ‘three ticks’ of the contract itself: acceptance of the processing of personal data, acceptance of the use of that data for marketing purposes, acceptance of the use of that data to be shared with third parties. The last two are always optional.

But by giving consent you actually give yourself the opportunity to use your phone number. By signing up to the register you are saying that those consents, those ticks, are no longer valid. And that you no longer want to be contacted. But it is valid from the moment you sign up to the register until the entire previous period. What you sign and ‘check off’ afterwards is not covered. Therefore a citizen has coverage until the moment he requests registration in the register. After that, no more.

Why update your registration in the Opposition Register

The Ugo Bertone Foundation, contacted by our newspaper, specified that the only way to be protected from telemarketing campaigns is to renew the registration in the register: “Registering in the opposition register is like having a blood test done: the results are valid in moment in which they are done. But if after registering you give consent to the processing of your data for marketing purposes for other companies, or for the same companies in the past, the opposition is no longer valid. And therefore it is necessary to renew the registration, with a block established on a new date”, explained Maurizio Pellegrini, head of the Registry.

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If we often complain about the non-functioning of the Registry, it is explained, it is because either consent has been given again to the processing of data, or to the transfer of data to third parties. Cell phone numbers can travel very long distances. Go from container to container. From company to company. From company to cyber criminals who in turn resell them. A complicated supply chain. Difficult to map. Seemingly impossible to stop completely.

The importance of a telephone number, especially a mobile one

Despite new technologies, the telephone number is an old but very precious tool. There are 78 million mobile numbers in Italy. 20 landline telephones. When we consent to their use, we are inserting them into a data mechanism that makes the fortune of a very large number of actors: call center companies, companies that can personally address potential customers, data brokers that buy and resell lists of names and contacts, cyber criminals who, if they have access to databases, can resell that data to companies less inclined to comply with the rules. The law imposed limits. But the limits are often ignored.

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The problem of Robocalls (and artificial intelligence)

“Ours is not an inspection and sanctioning task. But we can support the investigations,” explains Pellegrini. The Guarantor provides for fines of up to 20 million or 4% of turnover for companies that do not respect the limits imposed by the register. But it’s difficult to keep tabs on what’s happening in remote corners of the Internet. Pellegrini, an engineer by training, does not believe we can do better from a technical point of view. The platform works. But the data industry can transcend controls. And with the advent of artificial intelligence, things can get complicated.

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“In the USA they have been dealing with the phenomenon of robocalls since 2015. Automated phone calls made by software, which disguise real telephone numbers but which in reality do not exist. With artificial intelligence those voices, so mechanical today, could become more human and easy to mistake for those of a real person. The most serious thing of all is that they apparently call from a real number. In this sense, artificial intelligence will probably be able to help identify illicit calls.” Is there a way to work around this problem? “In the United States they have a protocol that blocks numbers at the source, preventing the number from being masked. It could also be used in Europe,” he concludes.

Do not give consent. And some security tools built into your phone

In addition to renewing your registration to clean up your number from the consents given, the user will also need to pay more attention when it comes to giving consent to the processing of personal data. You are not obligated to give it. That said, there are tools built into phone operating systems or apps to filter out unwanted numbers.

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For iOS, the main call filtering tool is the “Phone” app built into the operating system. iOS also offers the ability to block specific phone numbers directly from settings or call history. For Android, there are several third-party app options available on the Google Play Store that offer advanced call blocking features. Some examples include Truecaller, Hiya, Mr. Number, and Call Blocker. Both operating systems also offer native features to identify and block unwanted calls via caller ID and number blocking.

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