Google Is Going To Tell You Why A Business Calls Your Phone

September 10, 2020

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Google is taking steps to reduce phone spam.

Google is rolling out a new functionality for Android phones that will help verified businesses reach their customers by phone by having their brand name and reason for calling properly identified. The feature, known as "Verified Calls," will display the caller's name, their logo, a reason why they're calling and a verification symbol that will indicate the call has been verified by Google. This reminds you of Twitter verifications, but for phone numbers. The feature arrives at a time when spam calls are on the rise. U.S. consumers received 61.4 billion spam calls in 2019, according to a recent report from RoboKiller, representing a 28% increase from the prior year. The U.S. Federal Communications Commission also says that unwanted spam phone calls are among its top consumer complaints.

Google's new system gives legitimate businesses a way to share their information with consumers, along with their reason for calling on the incoming call screen. This, however, only works with those participating businesses who have chosen to sign up with one of Google's partners in order to have their calls verified.

According to Google's website for the service, businesses can get started with Verified Calls by working with a partner such as Neustar, JustCall, Kaleyra, Aspect, Telecall, Zenvia, Prestus, Five9, Vonage, Bandwidth, IMImobile, Quiubas Mobile or Datora. Once set up, a business will send Google's Verified Calls server its number, the customer's phone number and the call reason, like "scheduling your internet installation," or "your pizza delivery," for example. Google then sends this information to the Android device's Google Phone app through a notification. The device compares the incoming call information with the information Google received from the business and, if there's a match, the Phone app displays the call as "Verified." Google says the customer phone number and call reason is deleted within minutes of verification to protect consumer privacy.

The feature is enabled by default in the Google Phone app for Android devices, which comes pre-loaded on many Android phones and will be available for download for more Android devices in the coming weeks. At the beginning, it will work on select Android Pie and higher devices, including many flagship Samsung and LG devices. Google says it pilot tested the new feature for a few months before going live and found that verification did increase the chances of someone answering a call. It did not share the specific results, but you can guess in an age of text messaging and spam phone calls that seeing a verified number calls helps increase consumer confidence.

However, Google's existing Verified SMS system for text messages has been adopted by a number of brands, including 1-800-Flowers, Banco Bradesco, Kayak, Payback and SoFi, for example. Google claims a study in the U.S. and Brazil found that Verified SMS increased customer trust in brands, and improved metrics like likelihood to purchase, brand satisfaction and likelihood to recommend. The Verified Calls feature is launching first in the U.S., Mexico, Brazil, Spain and India, with many more countries to follow.

Google already offers a way for consumers to fight incoming spam with its Google Assistant feature, Call Screen. This feature allows the Google Assistant to answer the call on the user's behalf, then ask them who's calling and why. A transcript is sent to the phone's owner, who can then choose to send a suggested response, pick up or hang up. That functions somewhat like an automated secretary. But Call Screen works automatically in English in the U.S., and can be used manually in Canada, according to Google's Help documentation. Verified Calls, meanwhile, is offered in more countries worldwide and leverages industry partnerships to work, instead of AI, making it a broader solution. A large number of spam phone calls and identity theft is among some of the reasons why phone number privacy services are becoming more popular. It seems as if phone numbers are destined to join the web 2.0 era in a bigger role than it previously occupied.

We hope you enjoyed reading this guide and learned something new! Check out our Learning Center to learn more about online privacy and security or consider subscribing to our Online Privacy Service to remove your phone number, name, and address from Google, Bing, Yahoo, and DuckDuckGo search results and hundreds of data broker sites.