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Originally published February 4, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified February 4, 2008 at 5:02 PM

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Intelius shuts down cellphone directory

Intelius, a Bellevue startup that launched online directory assistance for cellphone numbers, has shut down the service after complaints...

The Associated Press

NEW YORK — Intelius, a Bellevue startup that launched online directory assistance for cellphone numbers, has shut down the service after complaints from consumers and Verizon Wireless.

Intelius had 90 million numbers in its database, according to its Web site, and was selling them for $15 each to anyone who had a name and wanted a number.

The company said in a statement released Friday that it has discontinued the directory service due to "consumer feedback." Several TV stations and MSNBC.com had publicized the directory last week.

Verizon Wireless called on Intelius last Tuesday to stop selling numbers.

"This is a violation of Americans' privacy. People expect their cellphone numbers to remain private," Steve Zipperstein, Verizon Wireless' general counsel, said in the statement.

Intelius still operates a reverse cellphone lookup, which reveals the name of the subscriber for a given number. Several other Web sites offer the same service. Intelius also conducts background checks, people searches and sells records on property and neighborhoods.

The cellular industry organization CTIA — The Wireless Association attempted to create a cellphone directory but abandoned the effort a few years ago after opposition from consumers and legislators.

Liz Murray, communications manager at Intelius, said the company had developed the directory it is now shuttering because people are increasingly abandoning land lines in favor of cellphones.

"We realize that in this instance, we may have been ahead of our time," Murray said.

The company never planned to sell numbers in bulk to businesses, she said.

Federal law already prohibits telemarketers from calling cellphones.

Murray would not say how the company obtained the numbers, or how large a share of Intelius revenue the sales represented, citing the "quiet period" associated with the company's planned initial public offering of stock. The IPO could be worth up to $143.8 million, according to documents filed in January.

The IPO filing notes that the company is the subject of a Federal Trade Commission investigation regarding Fair Credit Reporting Act compliance.

The chief executive of Intelius, Naveen K. Jain, also founded InfoSpace, an Internet search and directory company that soared during the dot-com frenzy, then crashed.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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