Google Voice launches for all, gets sued

Google Voice

The Google Voice system connects all of your calls, voicemails, and phone numbers to just one central account. Image from Flickr.

Google Voice, a service that “reinvents” telephony with a Google lens, was officially launched to all today. The same day that Google Voice launched, though, Frontier filed a patent infringement lawsuit. The Google Voice system also raises questions about privacy and lost revenue for other service carriers.

Google Voice: the features

Today on the Google Voice Blog: Google Voice for everyone post, this new Google product was officially announced. Google Voice is a telephone system that mixes telephone services. A free Google Voice account offers:

  • One number. Keep a single phone number for all phones
  • Voicemail transcription. Read your voicemails
  • Personalized greetings. Voicemail greetings based on who is calling
  • International calling. Call other countries for just a few cents per minute.
  • E-mailed SMS. Text messages show up as e-mails if you so choose, and you can respond with an e-mail.
  • Share voicemails. Send voicemails to other contacts via e-mail.
  • Block callers. If you block a number, they receive a “disconnected” notice next time they call.
  • Screen callers. Just like old answering machines, you can listen in while a voicemail is being left
  • Mobile App. Any mobile phone can be used to manage your Google Voice system, including chargeless text messages.
  • Conference calls. Pre-set conference calls using your Google number.

Google Voice: the lawsuit

The same day Google Voice was officially launched for all, Frontier Communications was granted a patent — and filed a patent lawsuit. Frontier claims that it holds the patent covering “computer-enhanced telephone services.” The patent was filed in 2007, and finally granted on June 22, 2009. Frontier claims that Google Voice “deliberately and willfully infringed” on their pending patent. Frontier requests that Google Voice be blocked from continuing service and be forced to pay for lost revenue and damages. Frontier has not yet announced any products it intends to introduce with its patent, even though it has dedicated programmers working on the system.

The privacy implications of Google Voice

The Google Voice system can be very useful, especially for businesspeople. However, before you jump on the Google Voice bandwagon, it is important to carefully read the privacy policy. Google will automatically collect and log information, including numbers, dates, duration, SMS and routing information. This isn’t much more information than traditional phone companies are collecting, but it does connect your Google Voice information to the other Google services you may be using.

Other recent posts by bryanh