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Sarah Lynch

New phone application reveals personal info

If you hit the bars in Gemmayze this weekend and manage to get the number of that guy or girl you’ve been chatting up, you’ll also be able to find out where he or she lives. Just punch their digits into a new iPhone application.
 
It’s called Lebanon Directory, and by typing in a person’s 9-digit phone number, anyone using the application can find out the name of the person who owns the number and their home address.    
 
The program is available on the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad, and it's one of two new applications causing concern about privacy protection.
 
Sabine Abi Farah discovered the application last Monday when a colleague came to her bursting with excitement over the new technology.  “We punched in all the people we know and all of their information came up,” Abi Farah said.
 
She was using both Lebanon Directory and the Lebanese Car Plate Directory, an application that provides information about vehicle owners. “Enter any car plate number and select its proper symbol to get its information,” the application’s instructions read.
 
Abi Farah plugged in her license plate number and got the following: Her home address, her marital status, her husband’s name and her car’s make, model and year.
 
If the owner of a license plate number has a loan on his or her car, that too will be listed, along with the name of the bank from which is was taken.  
 
“Honestly, I feel raped. It’s like raping someone,” Abi Farah said.
 
“I could be going home and maybe a guy behind me who would like to see where I live could find out by typing my license plate number into his phone. It’s really outrageous,” she said.  
 
Lebanese Car Plate Directory and Lebanon Directory can both be purchased for $6.99 on iTunes.
 
Mobile content company Double U, which developed the applications, declined to comment or provide any information about their products.
 
But a Beirut-based website developer said a program like this is easy to develop. “If the information was available and in a computerized format, and they collected it and simply turned it into an RSS feed, it would take only a few weeks to develop, if that,” he said, requesting NOW Lebanon not publish his name for privacy reasons.
 
Still, the question remains as to how Double U got the information of Lebanese car owners and cell phone users. The Ministry of Interior exclusively controls data regarding license plate numbers, while the Ministry of Telecommunications is responsible for data regarding phone numbers. The release of these databases to a third party is against the law, said Dr. Toni Issa, lawyer and president of the IT Committee for the Beirut Bar Association.
 
The only way for a third party to legally obtain information regarding phone numbers is if the cell phone subscriber expresses written consent allowing their mobile operator to make their personal information public, he said.
 
When a person buys a SIM card, or unique mobile number, neither the mobile company nor the distributor asks permission to distribute a user’s information. They do, however, ask for a name and address, and a request a copy of the buyer’s Lebanese ID or passport.  That information is kept in a database, and is given to the Ministry of Telecommunications upon request, according to an MTC Touch customer service representative who spoke to NOW Lebanon.
 
“There is no way to obtain this information, especially that of the car plate directory, unless if someone from inside this administration copied the database containing the information,” Issa said.
 
Copying or stealing databases is a direct violation of the Lebanese Penal Code. The only people who can legally solicit this information are the police or judicial authorities. “Therefore, any kind of usage of this information…is strictly illegal,” Issa said.  Moreover, Issa says the use of the information violates intellectual property and consumer protection laws.
 
Despite the legal violations the programs pose, some believe they can be advantageous.
 
“I can use this when guys mess with me,” said one Lebanese girl. While stuck in traffic, a man in the car next to her had asked her for directions, then made crude remarks. “I could’ve used this to find his address, and sent someone over to deal with him.”

  • reine

    doesn't exist on iphone 4

    January 17, 2012

  • ELie

    in probably all europa countries ,this application exist ,i live in sweden and u can find the owner and his house location by his number,or u can put his name and u get his number :)

    December 25, 2011

  • Wael

    Switzerland is an exception. In all cases, CARINDEX has been modified and limited info is accessible on this App. From the iTunes store on the CARINDEX app: ..Based on legal discussions with the cantons and lawyers, we have had to make some changes to the app. All cantons are still accessible, only most of the cantons are unfortunately no longer accessible directly within the app, but indirectly via a direct link in the webbrowser of your iPhone/regular computer.....

    November 8, 2010

  • Youssef - Beirut

    It is available in other countries: http://www.carindex.ch/English.html

    November 5, 2010

  • Ghassan

    this information must not be given away without the approval of the concerned person. each person should have the freedom of choice to either reveal or hide their private info and the law must protect this freedom of choice. we are part of the internet and social networking generation and we've all seen the dangers and troubles that might happen due to giving away private info! these applications will become a dangerous tool each time they fall in the wrong hands. anyone who has a problem with someone driving a car,he or she can take their car registration number and report it to the police who will then make sure to take the required legal actions.

    November 5, 2010

  • Wael

    To the persons claiming this is public for in 'all modernized country', this is NOT TRUE. I live in Canada and in the U.S and Canada, you can't get this info because it's governed by the Driver's Privacy Protection Act: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Driver's_Privacy_Protection_Act If you know the Vin # of the car, you can go to sites like CARFAX and view the vehicle history report, but it DOES NOT INCLUDE owner's names and addresses. For the other info like debt status and credit history, you have to have a signed consent from the person in order to request a credit or security check; and for the marital status and spouse name, the government will certainly not disclose this info. Your phone and address is available by default through yellow pages but you can request to unlist it.

    November 4, 2010

  • ahmad

    Roland, I live in switzerland, here there is a Iphone application that does the same for us here. search for Carindex, and you will see that it is available. The same thing applies to most of the other european countries. I do think the address should be confidential though.

    November 4, 2010

  • anonymous

    Welcome to Lebanon shabab, the government doesn't really care about this anyways. all you need to do is know someone who works at any branch office for Ogero(even if it's a janitor). go to any computer office.. and pow!! the DB's right on the desktop.. not encrypted, no password, hell it's not even hidden. I believe it's the government's fault for not enforcing strict policies on how the DBs are stored and where they are stored. Until the government can fix this problem(which it won't.. believe me) I don't care if some Ones knows who am I or who they are

    November 3, 2010

  • Isaac

    Makes you wonder what Nasrallah use to say about the International Investigation in the Killing of Hariri (the STL) was last to get all that information. Nasrallah even mentioned all this info was going to wrong places, including Israel, and now Double U. Everybody has access to all our information!!

    November 3, 2010

  • joseph

    This is a Huuuge Problem. The Lebanese government should immediately get in contact with Apple to remove the Applications from iTunes and then immediately go after Double U.

    November 3, 2010

  • Roland

    Contrary to what one commentator said, in Foreign countries, car plate numbers are not made public just for anyone to consult whenever they like. That is incorrect. The database is only used by law enforcement agencies. Relevant laws are the The Drivers Privacy Protection Act in the USA,whereas according to the law you have to Ask for a request form from the DMV. Be advised that most of the forms for locating owners through their license plate numbers are available only to government officials, businesses and their agents. For instance, you may need to have the form filled out by a police officer or an insurance agency that can verify the legal reasons why you are seeking this information. Certainly not through an i-phone application.

    November 3, 2010

  • CD

    Ahmad you are wrong. not all modernized countries have this information publicly available. this is what us Lebanese always claim. The information of this application most probably came from the General Security. As you know, each Lebanese guy has a cousin somewhere, that knows someone, that can copy a mdb file. If there was justice, then this company will be closed and the General Security guy released of his duties. This application is a clear violation of privacy, and a really dishonest way to make few bucks (which might be more than we think considering it's the single most grossing app on the Lebanese app store - goes to say how curious we are regardless of our morals)

    November 3, 2010

  • tarek

    Well the database of phone numbers and license plate numbers had been leaked out 2 years ago as an access file by some security personnel and i guess the story was covered in the news but though its available in the market ,its clearly illegal to be used that openly, I guess it was leaked after the internal security got this data during the assassinations period Lebanon went through... though if its the same database, number issued in 2009/2010 shouldn't be available so does 70/71 numbers

    November 3, 2010

  • Lebanese

    Double U is managed by Nabih Berry's son in Law !

    November 3, 2010

  • ahmad

    All modernized countries have all car plate numbers public, so for example if someone hit your car and kept going, you can directly inform your insurance company etc.. I agree that numbers and names of the owners of these numbers should be kept private.

    November 2, 2010

  • Peter N

    This is a scandal!!!!!!!

    November 2, 2010