Google Pulls Click-to-Call

Update: Some time after I made this post it appears the feature is available again, apparently with no more safeguards than before.

Just five days after adding a new click-to-call function to local map search, Google appears to have removed the feature and replaced it with a much less convenient SMS service. The change was probably due to widespread use of the system for prank calls. Click-to-call let you click a link next to any businesses listing on Google Local, enter your phone number and then contact the business as Google used a VOIP line to call both phones simultaneously. I was excited about the service when I first reviewed it but didn’t even think about using it to make the local Republican party office call the local porn store until reading about the idea on other blogs. Apparently Google and I were both too naive about the anti-social side of social software.

Though there’s little to stop prank callers on standard phones, the click-to-call program was new to people and was too easily gamed. The replacement feature is titled “send to phone” and sends a businesses details to your phone by SMS. That’s not nearly as useful but removes the risk of prank calls. We were first told about the change today by the blog PinkPrankRadio.

It would be good to see the click-to-call function returned with some kind of safeguard, SMS confirmation for first time use of the system wouldn’t be difficult. For now though, there are probably thousands of people at businesses around the US cursing eachother (and in some cases Google) over the phone.

Not to take this too seriously, but it does bring to mind previous conversation we’ve had here about the importance of security if Google is going to convince the world to use its hosted office productivity applications.