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62 comments on “Why Do Services like Google and Microsoft Ask for a Phone Number?”

  1. It’s rather unfortunate for those of us who don’t have a mobile number though; Google’s solution is “ask a friend to borrow their cell phone” but as I’m disabled and almost completely noncommunicative (though I’m fairly articulate online) that’s not much help to me.

    • “Me,” this isn’t about you. The question was why Google asks for a phone number. The answer is “for account security.” It’s unfortunate that you are unable to use a phone. Google has other methods to verify your account, just not as convenient.

      • Security my ass. It’s statistically more likely for me to lose access to my phone (ie: loss, theft or physical damage) than losing access to an online account. The problem is that the average Internet user is completely oblivious to information security, try to pick retarded passwords–like their names, DoB, ‘password’, 123456–do stupid s*** online, expose their whole lives and personal information to social networks and then complain when they get their s*** stolen.

        Now explain how come those service providers suddenly decide to assume *every* user has the intelligence of a gold fish? How does using a third party’s phone device for registration increase MY account’s security? It’s almost as stupid as sharing your password, something that ironically those same service providers condemn. The hypocrisy is amusing.

      • Well, it should be about “Me.” Their services are aimed, collectively, at “Us.” And if they implement strategies like requiring a mobile phone number, it excludes the surprising number of “Us” who don’t suffer from low sperm count because we don’t own cell phones and so there’s nothing emitting EMF radiation from our pockets to our precious genitals.

        Why does it have to be a mobile number? Why can’t they use a land line, which again, many people still have, even in 2014?

        • ^ All of the above, seconded.

          And personally, I moved house a couple years ago and was 100% without ANY phone until Jan this year. Even now that I have a landline, I sure as heck don’t want it connected to an online account of any sort. I get enough spam calls even with the # on the Do Not Call registry.

          ‘Logic’ makes an excellent point. Phone numbers change more frequently than online emails become inaccessible, and the easy-to-lose-or-destroy problem is one of many reasons I’ve never bothered with mobile phones.

          Making the phone entry a requirement is alienating so many potential users.

  2. I agree with Me. I happen to have a Google account. When I log in, they ask for my mobile number and I keep clicking Skip because I don’t have a cellphone. If I go to GMail, they suggest I add a GMail account. I select a GMail user name and click OK (or whatever they call the button). On the next screen, they say they have to verify my account so I need to enter a mobile number. So no GMail account for me.

    I’ve already been verified about 10 years ago when I first created my Google account. Why do they need to do it again, and why with a cellphone. They already know that the non-GMail email address is valid and it can be used for account recovery process.

    Either Google really does want to build a database of cellphone numbers or they just haven’t built a very friendly system.

  3. Microsoft has just informed me that if I do not give them my phone #, they will lock me out of my account in 5 days. So I gave them my # and they have yet to text me my “code” so I may access my account. I have had this same account since 1995 with the same password. I’m crying foul. Who do I need to talk to for a remedy?

    • If it’s truly Microsoft that was demanding this (it does sound similar to phishing attempts, so check your account security), then there is no one to talk to. Free email comes with NO support.

        • None of these services require a phone number. They highly recommended it for security and recovery purposes. An alternate email address would work just as well or better. Those free foreign email accounts can make great recovery addresses, as they will rarely lock you out for security purposes.

  4. This is simply an attempt by corporations to own cyberspace through contract law.
    It has very little to do with security.

    • Or maybe it’s their way to provide a free email service that allows people to retrieve lost accounts without the need of expensive tech support.

  5. I disagree entirely.

    The fact is that political discourse takes place these days largely on the internet. Now, all websites appear to be aligning with the same major providers for the comment facility. Google, Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, Disqus, not to mention all of the newspaper sites which have similar systems.

    Well, the major cornerstone of freedom is to be able to say something anonymously. So that you can say something that the powers-that-be either now or in the future cannot come and kill you as a political dissident because you are a threat to them.

    But what google and another handful of companies have done (I think intentionally, but you will think otherwise) is to monopolise the way that we conduct political discourse and the deanonymise it. Now, sure, you can hide your name from the general public. But everything you write is recorded and along with it your phone number, which in most countries you will have had to show your passport, birth certificate and utility bills to obtain.

    Are they going to come for the idiots who post stupid comments about how cute Justin Beiber is? No. Might they come after people who criticise certain political ideologies – certainly, they might. Certainly in the past we have seen it.

    No. This is a very dangerous move and in fact the government, if it genuinely serves the interests of the people and upholds the spirit of the constitution, they must insist that We The People have easy access to anonymous communications. Of course, the government do not uphold to constitution and they do not serve the interests of the people. They will of course use the excuse of protecting us from terrorism, national security etc…

    I find it extraordinary how easily people have given up their freedom. Why did you bother to fight for it in the first place! It was all a waste of time.

    • While I understand your concerns, I’ve been fairly clear in my disbelief in most conspiracy theories such as this. Possible? Certainly. Likely? I know you’ll think less of me, but I don’t believe so.

      • ” I know you’ll think less of me” Not at all. You can have your opinion and I respect that.

        But I should have the freedom to make political discourse anonymously. In the modern age means being able to have a google, disqus, twitter and facebook account which is entirely anonymous. Currently we can’t have such a thing. Which means that currently we do not really have the ability to undertake an anonymous discourse. For me, that means that we do not have freedom because we have to be careful. In the future a government or regime will find extremely useful the database of political swayings at their disposal.

      • Hello Leo,

        I sent this question and thank you for the response and for always covering each subject in depth.

        I just want to add two comments:
        The main issue here is not the conspiracy theories behind such request. The problem is the internet privacy per se.
        As for the option of putting a bogus phone number, there is no such option. Since the need for a phone number is clearly for recovering purposes, a real phone number is needed in order to send a recovering code.

        Regards,
        Dimitris

  6. I would have liked Microsoft to ASK me if I wanted to add this useless piece of security to my Hotmail account, before cutting me off. I don’t trust Microsoft, or anyone, to give them my cell phone number, or any other personal information and, if it means I’m prevented from using their so-called ‘free’ services (riddled with paid advertising), then I’ll use one of many who don’t ask for it. You dismiss concerns about this as a ‘conspiracy theory’, which shows your ignorance, rudeness and suggests you still may have strong links to Microsoft, to defend them so strongly. It’s not a conspiracy theory, but FACT, that they have been supplying government agencies with personal details for decades, so get it right.

  7. Using one of Microsoft’s email addresses presents no problem if you prepare by supplying them with a few (not just one or 2, in case you lose access to one or another) alternate email addresses. The problem is that not everybody finds this out until they are locked out of their account. Microsoft seems to have a talent for having great ideas, in theory, but sometimes neglect to realize that they are dealing with the component between the keyboard and the chair, ie., PEOPLE. Most other email providers simply ask you to type in your phone number or other information to verify who you are. Very simple and IMHO very effective. Window 8, same problem. Great OS, but it changed the whole interface with the person in the chair with no clear instructions on how to do what the people were doing with ease previously. I, personally love Windows 8, but I work with computers every day, but my heart goes out to all those I see who are confused and frustrated by the changes.

    I’m tempted to think this not responding to users’ complaints is arrogance on Microsoft’s part, but it’s probably more that MS has become a dinosaur. One factor in the extinction of the dinosaurs was that because of their size, it took too long for the brain to receive signals from the body.

  8. I’ve been locked out of my Microsoft account. Google and yahoo will not allow you to create a new account without providing a cellphone number.
    Can anyone recommend a good free email service that will not ask for my digits?

  9. Not only is it a way to identify you for their own (and the govt’s purposes) it is a way to look towards the future. Every one of these groups is looking at how to charge you for use. Tapping into and adding to your phone bill is simply one of them. With all the streaming tv/video companies out there, and HBO now joining on it is expected that cable will quickly dry up. They are looking at their own futures.

  10. This is really pissing me off. Because I currently do not have a phone I cannot make a youtube account, a facebook account, or a yahoo account. Freeking annoying. Hate sites that ask for phone number. They just expect everybody to have a phone. Lots of people in lots of places cant afford them, most you children don’t have phones — these requirements just annoy the crap out of me.

  11. “..The issue here is account recovery..”

    I quit reading here. This guy believes readers are idiots. He might be right in most cases though.

  12. Microsoft, Hushmail, and many others have locked me out of my (free) accounts that I did verify one or more times already, and many-many years ago.

    You think it’s ONLY about account recovery? Naaaah… if it was ONLY account recovery, then they could’ve asked for security questions, such as “What was the name of your first pet?”
    However, no, they insisted on my cell phone number…. and of course I refused.
    Why? Because it’s pretty safe to assume they want one of the followings:
    A) To take away my freedom.
    B) To blackmail me later on. OR….
    C) To supply my identy info to the government. Most of them have been supplying government agencies with our personal details for decades, so I suggest you think twice before giving them any of your digital identity.

    • Believe that if you want, but I can assure you Microsoft isn’t interested in taking away your freedom or blackmail you, and the government has better ways to monitor you. MS exists to make money by providing competitive software products. They’ve made some bad decisions, but I’d call them mistakes and not deliberate. Mistakes cost them money.

    • I believe you’re being overly paranoid. The reason the security questions aren’t being used anymore is simply that people have not remembered the answers for that the answers are very easy for people to guess. A mobile phone (or landline) is something that acts as a second form of identification – it’s almost 2 factor authentication.

      • And why is so important to them to have your phone number,that they deny their services because you don`t want to give it to them?
        call me paranoid ,but they indeed have an agenda

          • Users should get the security they need if they ask for it. It shouldn’t be imposed on them. Additional security like phone number should be optional. Users who use their YouTube account for commenting don’t need that level of security.

  13. Well… Most of us know why. The sole reason is to verify the identity of the email user. Once you miss around with the government or you commit any crime using email, it will be much easier for those agencies to come and get you. Phone numbers are the first method government agencies use when they pursue any investigation. It’s rather the easiest, fastest and best way to find your location and identify you.

    You can sense the author’s bias opinion and some of the paid commentators here who downplay the risk of privacy invasion when we use our personal phone numbers and attached it to our email addresses. The author and the paid commentators need to realize that the American public is much smarter now. What I did personally is that I bought a $10 prepaid phone and use it solely to verify email accounts (from coffee shops). I bet that askleo.com is so pissed now!! 🙂

    • Your comments on tracing people through their phone numbers may be valid, but there are no paid commenters on Ask Leo!, except for myself and one other. We’re paid to moderate and help with questions, but Leo has never even suggested we make any specific comments to back up his opinions.

    • I’m not pissed. Just kinda sad about the misguided and paranoid cynicism. Services can’t win, apparently – if you don’t have a recovery method people are pissed at you when they forget their password, and if you do have a recovery method they’re pissed because they assume that’s it’s not a recovery method at all but some kind of government plot. Naturally that’s not my take on matters, but whatever…

  14. There is no way I am going to give Microsoft my phone number. I trust them about as much as I think a Trump/Sanders coalition would ‘save America’.

    1) I do not believe that Microsoft will not use that number for other purposes.
    2) Even if I trusted them not to share it with the government, I doubt their security would prevent the NSA or other spooks from stealing it anyways.
    3) I doubt their ability to keep out hackers whose purposes might be even more malign than the government’s.

    Short answer: Go ahead and close the account, Microsoft. I have 5 other email addresses.

    Now, can anyone tell me how to turn off the ******* alerts that Microsoft keeps sending without losing the ability to get updates?

  15. I have never lost any password, never, ever, and I am only for 25 years, approx..
    having like 100-200 passowrds, each unique, i have a good memory..
    So stop {redacted} about recovery..
    It’s all about and against spammers, but of course, often an innocent user is disgusted with such private information.
    I also do not give out my phone, I dont need salesman calling me…
    Thanks

  16. Same here, people are so stupid nowadays, they do not THINK at all
    Im not going to give out my phone ever, rather go to prison for free…
    My phone is my private info, not for sale.
    Buying domain and setting up own mail is still a solution and nice one…
    gmail is outdated…

  17. BTW, email with phone paired to the mail is easily hackable..
    one of the way is:
    cloning an SIM card
    hijacking a phone (easy with friends)
    and i can recover the password with their sim/phone..
    no problem at all..
    security questions are way harder, if not impossible to guess
    sms verification is easy
    just saying
    so security, its {redacted}..
    its all about database.. and control…

  18. And if you DON’T have a phone number (maybe it’s against your religion)? What are the alternatives, then? No security at all? Is it REALLY that unheard of for someone to NOT have a phone number? Seems like we’re trying to beef up one insecure system with one that is equally (or more) insecure. So where does the donkey ride end?

    There should be some reasonable options.

    • I haven’t seen a service that requires a phone number. All the ones I’ve dealt with allow you to use an alternate email address for recovery. If you do come across one which requires a phone number, the alternative is to find another service which doesn’t require a phone number of learn to live without that service.

        • It has a field for a phone number on the signup page, but you can leave it blank and still open the account. It really is for your protection. I would never have an important email account without several recovery options including a phone number. When I traveled to another country, I was asked to allow outlook.com to send a recovery text. I got the recovery text, and it was absolutely free. Of course, I have a few recovery emails, but the text was the easiest.

        • They may ask, but you can leave the fields empty. I just created a new Google account without a phone or alternate email address.

          Your new email address is askleotest@gmail.com
          Thanks for creating a Google Account. Use it to subscribe to channels on YouTube, video chat for free, save favorite places on Maps, and lots more.

  19. The real reason behind asking for a phone number is data mining.

    This is complete búllshit. Google has no right whatsoever to have this information and it is nothing to do with securing an account. It’s an email acc FFS.

    Google and hotmail(microsoft) have become so solf important that they believe they transcend privacy laws.

    • That’s a bit paranoid. Mobile phones work perfectly to recover an account as it is something you can prove you have access to. It’s not done to secure your account (as in “against hackers”). It’s for your own personal safety so that you can recover your account if it gets hacked, or if you forget your password.

      Also, you are not forced in any way to use a Google or Microsoft email account at all. You can set up your own personal account in many different ways. I would suggest reading the suggestion under the heading “Option one: buy your own domain” on this article to learn how to create your own email account on your own domain: https://askleo.com/how_do_i_keep_my_email_address_when_i_switch_isps/

    • I disagree completely. Phone numbers are a very valid way to secure your account. What YOU don’t see are the hundreds – perhaps thousands – of people that lose access to their accounts every day. Using a verified phone number is one way that services like Google and Microsoft can confirm you are who you say you are when you attempt to do an account recovery. Yes, it’s an email account, but that can be critically important these days.

      The whole “data mining” argument is, in my opinion, so much paranoia. Particularly when there is no requirement that you actually give them a phone number. It’s on you, then, to secure your account some other way.

    • Interesting comment. Can you explain why you think this is the case? MS and Google both have my cell number, and the only time I’ve ever been texted by them is when I requested it for things like a password reset or when I wanted to log on to my email in another country. If anyone reading this has been text spammed by a major email service provider, please post it here.

  20. i don’t have a phone and microsoft account is asking for my number for security setting, what can i do please help me

  21. just be glad they aint asking your for your id. facebook regularly forces users to scan id’s and email it to them.

  22. Recently changed Internet providers, and created outlook accounts for each of my family. 12 year old son wanted to start using his outlook account, so we set it up on his laptop. Outlook required entering texted codes first a 4 digit then I think 5 digit codes. To receive each code required entering the phone number on 4 occasions. We were up and running, but at a price.
    This is a phone for exclusive purpose of contact while travelling to and from school. His mother has it, my mother has it, a family friend has it, of course myself, and now Microsoft. The the calls started, maybe 5 days later, share trading, binary trading, and an adult dating site. The clincher was a call from someone offering to offset his tax liability into property for superannuation. I took over the call after earing in for a while, the person admired he was in India, and stated the privacy laws were different there. When I asked was it common practice to exploit 12 year old children, I was told unfortunately he didn’t qualify, and there must have been a mixup with the date format. Being in Australia we enter day before month, but we state year last.
    Why would a child have to enter a number 4 times to verify an account created 3 months before, without giving a phone number.
    My advise, run, don’t look back, just run.

    • Those marketing calls were a coincidence. Those calls would have happened even if you hadn’t registered his phone number with Microsoft. Microsoft doesn’t share any information like that.

  23. Google is literally evil and what’s more, they’ve somehow talked themselves into being complete and utter fascists. They DO NOT believe in free speech. They openly discriminate against certain groups. But I am supposed to give these sickos my phone number? Trustworthy my a**.

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