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Caller identification lessens phone harassment

I feel obliged to comment on Mark Kantrowitz's column ["New phone feature could result in loss of privacy," Mar. 7]. Kantrowitz contends that Automatic Number Identification has the potential to reduce the privacy of calling parties, particularly that of callers to emergency and assistance lines. I believe he misses the larger point.

Automatic Number Identification will undoubtedly reduce the anonymity of callers. It is intended to. When you place an unsolicited call over the public network, you must give up some degree of freedom and privacy. To retain those, don't make the call. The receiving party has no such luxury. His or her phone will receive any call from any number not specifically blocked. As the initiator of a call, you, not the called party, has a responsibility to respect the rights of others. ANI offers a method of enforcement when that responsibility is abdicated.

Consider the case of harassment, particularly sexual harassment. Consider the case of fraudulent business practices, the so-called "boiler operations." The damage inflicted by these individuals, virtually without deterrent, is far greater than any loss of privacy to someone who willingly places a telephone call. As a matter of precedent, I cannot think of a single method of communication in which one party doesn't have the obligation to identify himself.

I fully recognize that some public services benefit from anonymity for callers. Help lines and certain police lines could certainly suppress ANI locally, or have it suppressed from the central office. On balance, however, I believe that ANI provides the requisite safeguard for millions of individuals who lose their privacy to late night calls, harassment, fraud, and thoughtlessness on a daily basis. I think we should pay more attention to the rights of the many than to the wishes of a few.

Grant Lenahan G->

Bell Communications->

Research, Inc.->