Marchex Named in Complaint to FTC

Amended complaint from consumer groups targets call tracking technology.

The Center for Digital Democracy (CDD) and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (USPIRG) amended a petition to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) today to launch an investigation into mobile advertising and privacy concerns. The report calls out domain name company Marchex (NASDAQ: MCHX) for its VoiceStar subsidiary. According to the complaint:

…Marchex surreptitiously gathers data on mobile users and even records calls made in response to ads. Marchex’s call tracking service enables mobile advertising providers to: “(i) track the calls generated by advertisements on their network, (ii) determine exactly which advertisements delivered the calls, (iii) track and report key information including the duration, time of day and geographic location of callers, and (iv) record the calls. Marchex makes this information available to the mobile advertising provider through its comprehensive reporting interface…

Marchex gathers this data (including recording phone calls) without adequate notice to
the consumer, making it difficult for a mobile user to weigh the costs and benefits and
choose whether to opt out of this profiling. This constitutes unfair and deceptive practices,
and the Federal Trade Commission should scrutinize these actions.

I don’t understand what the big problem is. I suppose these are the same types of organizations that oppose using cookies in web advertising. The only thing that would concern me at all about this service is if the geographic location of callers pinpoints a user location as opposed to just a city/metro area.

The full complaint is online (pdf).


  1. Patrick McDermott says

    “including recording phone calls”

    Are they saying the actual phone conversations are being recorded?

  2. Patrick Iselin says

    Andrew, you are exactly correst. It is ILLEGAL to record a phone call without letting the know per the FCC.

    Call tracking numbers have been in existence for decades and in widespread use – any toll free number you have dialed in the last 20 years has been a tracking number. It is an extremely effective way for advertisers and media companies to be able to gauge the effectiveness of these campaigns, and recording the calls will help them verify that these are indeed viable and valuable leads that are being generated as opposed to bots or spam callers.

  3. jp says

    Wow, where do you find this stuff.

    (Sorry just got back from vacation, catching up now and writing lots of comments etc…)

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