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CDR and Our Commitment To Your Privacy

posted Oct 4, 2016, 9:47 AM by EZvoip Co   [ updated Oct 4, 2016, 10:49 AM ]
We occasionally get requests from our customers to not "log" their calls on our servers. The short answer is we do not record the voice content of your calls (see our call recording answer) but we do keep track of incoming and outgoing calls (i.e., their duration and the destination of outgoing calls) for billing purposes, as disclosed in our privacy statement. We take our customers' privacy seriously and we make it easy to deal with telemarketers and unwanted callers.

The aforementioned data (call duration and destination) is called CDR, which is short for Call Detail Records. This data is generated by exchanges for billing purposes. You can find more general info about it on Wikipedia or a more technical article on voip-info. We make your CDR available to you in the Control Panel.

CDR data is essential to VoIP billing. Virtually every VoIP provider uses it for revenue generation. In EZvoip case, we lease lines and time from upstream providers and resell it to our customers. We are charged based on CDR data and we charge our customers mostly at cost (sometimes at a small loss, sometimes at a small profit, but we balance it out in the end). Without this data, we would be open to either being taken advantage of, with a client who overuses our service while underpaying, or we could be charging more than we pay our upstream provider, compromising our commitment to charge at cost while in beta stage. We also use this data to create plans that better respond to our customers' needs and to keep plan costs in sync with usage.

Encrypting calls, a feature provided with some softphones, prevents regular snooping on your conversations by third parties, much like using GPG with email safeguards your privacy. However, your provider still has the direct your phone calls to the right number, much like your email has to reach its destination, and as such, records (i.e., metadata) / CDR is generated and stored. This is true of any telephony or email provider. If an email provider were to delete such data after sending the email, or if you were to delete the sent email from the Sent folder, this data would continue to exist on servers upstream, servers that had taken the email based on its address info and sent it along. The same is true with VoIP.

We do not know of any VoIP provider to claim that they do not generate CDR data to protect customer privacy and we suspect that if any one provider makes such a claim, they are being disingenuous. While a VoIP provider could choose to not disclose CDR data to their customers, they cannot eliminate it from their upstream provider servers - and there is always an upstream provider or partner, as phone numbers are not generated or assigned out of thin air.

We will minimally cooperate with law enforcement requests - i.e., we will provide the minimum amount of data we are legally required to provide, so that we do not incur adverse consequences, but it's unlikely that law enforcement would even request anything from us since they can go to some upstream provider with whom they are likely to have a pre-existing relationship. The same is true of virtually any VoIP reseller. Not complying with such requests (e.g., a court-ordered subpoena) would jeopardize the privacy of our other customers and may even endanger our survival as a business.

To summarize our position on the collection of data, we do collect metadata (call length and destination) for billing purposes, it is stored securely and we have never sold it in the past nor will we in the future sell it to a spammer or anything like that.

If you want to make and receive calls anonymously with VoIP, with any provider, you would have to pay for it anonymously (some free services exist, but they might be logging even more data and selling it along to marketers or advertisers). Some claim that it may be possible to pay anonymously with Bitcoin. Additionally, you would have to ensure that the email address you use to register cannot be traced back to you. That is far more difficult than you would think and even familiarity with TOR does not guarantee it. Finally, keep in mind that someone with full access to your CDR and email flow metadata (that is definitely not us) might be able to ascertain (guess) your identity from that alone.