With the annoying phenomenon of text messaging harassment continuing to plague cell phone users, PrivacyStar has rolled out a new feature that beefs up protection against unwanted SMS texts on Android OS smartphones.
Users of PrivacyStar’s phone and text message screening software have already logged more than 150,000 complaints with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), according to a PrivacyStar spokesperson.
Meanwhile, at least 44 states have passed legislation specifically banning text messaging harassment, generally by extending existing laws prohibiting people from making threats over the phone or bombarding others with repeated phone calls.
A Real Problem
A quick look at user forums on the Web, conducted by Brighthand drove home the point that harassment delivered through mobile devices can be particularly irksome, since many people carry their smartphones with them all or most of the time.
When it comes to text messaging, users appear to be less concerned right now with telemarketers or debt collectors than with messages from ex-spouses or unwanted admirers. “If someone is sending multiple unwanetd text messages no matter how many times you tell them to leave you alone, is there anything you can do about it?” asked Brandi B in the Yahoo! Answers forum.
Over in the ExpertLaw forum, another user worried over whether his ex could get a restraining order against him. “My ex and I have been arguing via text messaging over silly stuff,” admitted dipat82. “Does she really have a case since there has been no threatening, violence or harassment? I have [NEVER] gone around her place nor have [I] repeatedly [texted or called] her every day.”
Several other software products and services are also combatting text messaging abuse. Although geared to use by parents who are trying to manage their children’s cell phone use, Phone Sheriff, provides controls over both inbound and outbound SMS text messaging. Norton Mobile Security tackles text message blocking, too, for example.
Screening Your Calls
PrivacyStar’s existing smartphone app already contains a number of advanced features for blocking phone calls and text messages, including capabilities for blocking individual phone numbers, entire areas codes, all private or unknown numbers, along with the use of crowdsourced data from all PrivacyStar users to automatically block “the most blocked numbers as determined by the entire user population.”
Also, at the user’s request, PrivacyStar will capture detailed information about possible violations — including date, time, number, and identity — so that users can provide this information to law enforcement agencies.
Some legal experts suggest that, without such a mechanism in place, text messaging harassment can be hard to prove, unless the user manages to take a photo or a Xerox of the smartphone screen.
PrivacyStar’s new SMS ID feature for Android OS phones steps beyond previous functionality for text message screening. Upon receiving a text message from an unknown sender, the user can now select SMS look-up from the PrivacyStar home page. From there, the user can take “appropriate action,” such as blocking that particular number.
In conjunction with SMS ID, PrivacyStar is also introducing a new Directory Assistance feature for Android OS phones, which lets users either speak or type the name of an individual or business. PrivacyStar will then try to find the location and map it.
PrivacyStar can be purchased for $2.99 per month from Android Market, BlackBerry App World, and PrivacyStar’s Web site. Free seven-day trials are also available.