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I got today a very unnerving phone call. It was a telemarketing, but unlike any other I had before, this was automated system and it suggested it knew much more about me than my number. I'm talking location, age, health...

The call did not state who it was from and who's responsible for GDPR administration.

It took some time but I found out who is the mobile network operator. Unfortunately, when called there, I was informed that they will not give me any information about this number.

Which is weird. By definition, company that owns the number is not private information. Unless it's private person, but can a private person conduct telemarketing on a massive scale? Anyway, this means I'm unable to exercise my GDPR rights and view and revoke my permission for marketing.

In addition, in Poland it is forbidden to use bots (and this call was 100% automated, with voice recognition of the answers and adapting script accordingly) for any marketing. And it's not part of GDPR (RODO), but separate Telecommunications Law. Which, admittedly, is much worse than GDPR in terms of penalties.

Is there a way to force them outside going to court to disclose bare minimum of the information i require?

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    Report the number to the appropriate regulator and move on. Such robocallers are criminals, they will not care about any GDPR requests you send them. The network operator will not hand out the owner's identity unless you get a court order. Often, such spammers obtain numbers through illicit means anyway, so the “holder” might not lead to the criminals. – amon Apr 7 at 13:20
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    Reality Check: Robocalls are mostly illegal in the US as well but there are still 100+ million a day. What the law says and what happens in the real world are often completely different things. – Hilmar Apr 7 at 13:57
  • @Hilmar - Unfortunately true. Hopefully, my call let them know someone figured something out and they will at least switch the number. But this gave me an idea for the app that blocks numbers based on operator code (at least in Poland). If I'm successfull, then the company goes out of business soon ;-) – AcePL Apr 8 at 7:36
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By definition, company that owns the number is not private information.

This is not true.

Who owns a telephone number is a matter between the telephone company and the subscriber. If they don’t want their ownership to be public then that’s up to them. Back in the day of landlines and paper telephone directories it was possible to request a “silent number” which would not be listed.

While it is correct that a company itself does not have personal information subject to GDPR, knowledge about the company can disclose personal information about individuals. For example, the directors and shareholders of a company are often part of a public register. Disclosing that company A owns the phone number, when combined with that public register has revealed GDPR protected information about individuals.

The telephone company is correctly applying the GDPR by not telling you who their subscriber is.

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  • Not quite. At least, depends on the fact how the company was incorporated. If choice was made to make it public, then the information I requested is in public domain and is not subject to GDPR (there is an exception to this effect in Poland), and this information is not only available, it can be freely disseminated. However, provider hides behind the Telecom law. Which makes sense - they are required to do that by law - but only if owner requested. Polish law requires operators to maintain list of their customers with associated numbers and this list to be available. Their reply is... weird. – AcePL Apr 8 at 7:33

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