Free VoIP Service vs Big Data & Your Privacy

There continues to be an ongoing debate that all services over the Internet should be treated equally, even some legislation has already passed. Net neutrality is the principle that Internet service providers and governments should treat all data traversing cyberspace the same. In essence, it should not discriminate or charge differentially by user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or mode of communication.

Not all communication systems are the same . . .

While in an utopian state, all things being equal is an appealing thought, but in actuality, not all communication systems online are the same and as such they have found different methods to service their customers. While Gmail is a ‘free’ online email service, most VoIP [Voice over Internet Protocol] providers charge their customers a fee. Let’s explore why?

It all comes down to your data . . .

Free VoIp Service vs Big Data & Your PrivacyGoogle has, perhaps more than any other Internet company realized that information is power. Information about the Internet, information about innumerable trends, information about preferences and information about its users, YOU – is where they place their focus.

For some time now, this has had many of us extremely concerned about our privacy — or lack thereof. And of recent date, things don’t look like they are going to change much. In fact, the data mining momentum have only become more ubiquitous with social networks like Facebook and others actually replicating the groundwork laid down by the Big G.

Some say this issue reached a tipping when Google’s CEO, Eric Schmidt went on the record some four years ago stating unapologetically: “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.”

No such thing as a free lunch?

Based on their modus operandi, Schmidt as spokesman would argue that his users have implicitly consented to this type of activity, recognizing it as part of the email delivery process. That means for every one with a Gmail account, your email content, both sent and received, is parsed and analyzed regularly by the search giant.

“Gmail reads your email to look for specific patterns that can put labels on your account and tell them ‘who you are,’” notes Peter Rank Schrøder, CEO and founder of Telzio, Inc.

“As Gmail has a direct comparison to VoIP as a communication tool, and while our VoIP services are not free, [you should also be aware] that you pay for Gmail services as well,” contends Schrøder. “You pay by allowing them to show you advertisements — and by letting them use and sell your data – data about what your preferences are and pretty much everything about yourself.”

To underscore the ‘no free lunch’ point Schrøder adds: “In essence, if the product is free, [then you must consider yourself] the product.”

What if VoIP services followed suit?

Can you imagine if VoIP providers followed in Gmail’s footsteps and assumed the same tactics?

Telzio’s chief customer officer Diana Chu conjectured that “if VoIP services started recording data that you conducted with your customers they would be able match it up in big databases to detail more about you as an individual.”

“For example, if you frequently call Pizza Hut, you probably like Pizza. Matching that info with your email address and other social data would make it very valuable for Dominos to own that data, and start showing you ads on other websites.”

“However, while it has become more and more accepted that this is happening on Gmail, social media and other web services, I doubt the public is ready for this when it comes to their phone service,” says Chu.

Text to Speech

“Let’s take it one step further with ‘text to speech’ functionality. This technology has beenFree VoIp Service vs Big Data & Your Privacy around for ages, and is commonly used in IVR menus [when you are asked to say which department you would like to speak to, instead of keying it in on your phone],” notes Schrøder.

“What if the same technology was used to transcribe all your conversations and then sold to big data agencies, along with information like your email address and other social graph items?

Not only could this technology analyze what you are talking about (and to whom), but it could also analyze your dialect or slang to learn more about which social demographic you really belong to.

Nonetheless as lucrative as this type of activity might garner, we at Telzio would not apply this technology to our VoIP services, as we respect the privacy and people’s right to have a private phone call,” concludes Schrøder.

So instead . . .

So instead of deploying the Gmail strategy, VoIP service such as Telzio is fully transparent in matching up services with a competitive pricing model – making it private and cost effective for the consumer.

Telzio has three plans, starting as low as $1 per month. The startup plan comes with metered minutes, so you and your team can pay as you go. A price breakdown for all services and upgrades can be found here.

And as far as free services, all inbound texts are free as well as ‘peer-to-peer’ usage when two SIP devices call each other.

One of the key cost differentials between Telzio and other VoIP services is they do not charge for additional users, making their pricing 80-90% lower than their competitors – while allowing SMBs to add as many employees as they like to the service.

Ron is part of the marketing team at Telzio, covering everything from tips and tech for growing businesses to customer success stories for the Telzio blog.