Caller ID lets us avoid those we deem annoyances. But how annoying is
it when someone spoofs the system?
By Tom Keane | September 24, 2006
The number on my Caller ID reads 617-000-0000, and I pick it up,
half-thinking it might be James Bond. A little disappointingly, the
call is from the Suffolk County district attorney's office. Law
enforcement types, apparently, can manipulate the telephone system to
hide their real numbers. It makes sense. There are bad guys out there,
and prosecutors don't necessarily want them phoning back.
Some months later, I get another call from the same number. I answer,
visions of DA Dan Conley with a martini -- shaken not stirred -- on
the other end. Instead, a recorded message starts up, and I hear a
sonorous voice: "I know we can do better . . ." It's from
gubernatorial candidate Chris Gabrieli. Now I really am disappointed.
Since it was introduced about 20 years ago, Caller ID has evolved from
an amusing gimmick ("Hello, Bill." "How did you know it was me?!") to
a ubiquitous tell-all. At home, we use it to avoid telemarketers; at
work, it lets us hide from annoying customers. Teenagers love the
cellphone feature that creates a different ring depending on whether
one is friend, foe, or, worst of all, Mom or Dad. Of course, it's
possible to block one's identity on a call (press *67), but many of us
have set up our phones to automatically reject anyone who
does. Businesses have taken advantage of the technology as well. Call
from home to activate your new credit card and there's no need to type
in your card number. Phone for a late-night snack and the pizzeria
already knows your name, address, and, one suspects, whether you tip
well or not.
The telephone once allowed us to be nameless, then Caller ID seemed to
change all that.