Android 4.4's 'Caller ID by Google' raises privacy concerns: How to opt out

Google unveiled Android 4.4 KitKat last week, announcing a number of improvements, including more immersive graphics, as well as deeper integration with Google's intelligent assistant, Google Now, among other changes and improvements.

A part of these improvements is the new Phone app that automatically prioritises the users' contacts based on the people they talk to the most. Users can also search for nearby places and businesses, contacts, or people in their Google Apps domain directly from the Phone app.

The Mountain View giant has now posted more details about the new Phone app on Google+.

It has talked about the 'Caller ID by Google' feature in detail through which Google will let users identify unsaved phone numbers. It reiterates that the new Phone app helps users find the right number, even if it's not in their contact list, by letting them search among nearby places or even Google Apps accounts (including their company's directory, if employees numbers are shared).

Other than that, it will match numbers against the names of companies and services with a Google Places listing.

However, the more worrying bit in terms of privacy is that, in early 2014, users who have verified their phone number and have discovery turned on will also have their names and Google Profile photos displayed whenever they call users, or users call them. Google says that 'it's great if a new friend who hasn't been saved in your contacts yet calls you' but some people would surely not like to get their phone number listed and available for lookup on an open public directory. It's not clear if Google will also allow people to search for numbers by entering names and browsing through profile listings.

Fortunately, you can check your Google Account to see if your phone number is listed and disable it by unchecking against the phone number by visiting this page. If you uncheck it, people will not be able to look up your name, photo and public Google profile (and other profile information you have shared with them) via the phone number. It's worth pointing out that it takes a day or so for this change to take effect, as per Google.

If you're worried about the privacy of your phone number, you should uncheck the option to display it with your Google profile.