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United States Patent Application 20020152265
Kind Code A1
Felman, Hillel October 17, 2002

Method and apparatus for selectively releasing personal contact information stored in an electronic or telephonic database

Abstract

A method and apparatus for screening access to personal contact information in an electronic or telephonic database composed of the querying party generating a query signal to obtain personal contact information which is received by a bridge website server, the bridge website server sending a query notification signal to a listing party so as to inform him or her of the existence of a query for personal contact information and the identity of the querying party, the listing party generating a consent/no consent signal sent to the bridge website server indicating which personal contact information is to be revealed to the querying party, and a personal contact information signal which brings the querying party the personal contact information of the listing party that the listing party wanted to be made available.


Inventors: Felman, Hillel; (NewYork, NY)
Correspondence Address:
    Rinaldo Del Gallo, III
    79 Nancy Avenue
    Pittsfield
    MA
    01201
    US
Serial No.: 827594
Series Code: 09
Filed: April 6, 2001

Current U.S. Class: 709/203; 709/245
Class at Publication: 709/203; 709/245
International Class: G06F 015/16


Claims



I claim:

1. A web-based personal contact information system comprising: a bridge website server located on the Internet; said bridge website server comprising any computer, sub-component of a computer, or group of computers, or any combination thereof, that possesses the capacity of maintaining a client/server environment on the Internet; said bridge website server having a personal contact information directory database that is capable of storing personal contact information of a listing party; said bridge website server receiving a querying signal generated by a querying party; said querying signal comprising one or more signals sent in any sequence or simultaneously from the querying party that embodies both a request for the personal contact information of the listing party and also embodies a communication of identifying information about the querying party, regardless as to whether the querying signal is modified or altered along its path from the querying party to the bridge website server; said bridge website server having a registration facility; said registration facility comprising a device capable of receiving the querying party's personal contact information embodied in the querying signal, storing the querying party's personal contact information, and transmitting it to the listing party; said bridge website server generating a query notification signal that notifies the listing party that there has been a query for the personal contact information of the listing party; said query notification signal notifying the listing party of the communication of identifying information of the listing party; said query notification signal comprising one or more signals sent in any sequence or simultaneously to the listing party that embodies both a request for the personal contact information of the listing party and also embodies a communication of identifying information about the querying party, regardless as to whether the querying notification signal is modified or altered along its path from the bridge website server to the listing party.

2. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 1 further comprising said bridge website server receiving a consent/no consent signal from the listing party; said consent/no consent signal directing the bridge website server as to what, if any, information stored in the personal contact information directory database is to be sent to the querying party; said consent/no consent signal comprising one or more signals sent in any sequence or simultaneously from the listing party to the bridge website server that embodies an instruction as to what personal contact information, if any, is to be sent to the querying party, regardless as to whether the consent/no consent signal is modified or altered along its path from the listing party to the bridge website server.

3. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 3 further comprising a personal contact information signal generated by the bridge website server sent to the querying party; said personal contact information signal containing the personal contact information of the listing party that was directed to be sent to the querying party according to dictates of the consent/no consent signal generated by the listing party; said personal contact information signal comprising one or more signals sent in any sequence or simultaneously to the querying party that embodies the personal contact information that is to be sent to the querying party, regardless as to whether the personal contact information signal is modified or altered along its path from the bridge website server to the querying party.

4. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 3 wherein the bridge website server is capable of generating a bridge website that may be accessed by the querying party.

5. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 4 wherein both the querying signal and the consent/no consent signal follows the TCP/Internet Protocol.

6. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 3 further comprising: the personal contact information database containing an e-mail address of the listing party; the personal contact information signal sent to the querying party containing the e-mail address of the listing party pursuant to the instruction of the consent/no consent signal generated by they listing party.

7. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 3 further comprising: the personal contact information database containing a telephone number of the listing party; the personal contact information signal sent to the querying party containing the telephone number of the listing party pursuant to the instruction of the consent/no consent signal generated by they listing party.

8. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 3 further comprising: the personal contact information database containing a street address of the listing party; the personal contact information signal sent to the querying party containing the street address of the listing party pursuant to the instruction of the consent/no consent signal generated by they listing party.

9. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 3 further comprising: the personal contact information database containing a fax number of the listing party; the personal contact information signal sent to the querying party containing the fax number of the listing party pursuant to the instruction of the consent/no consent signal generated by they listing party.

10. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 3 further comprising: the personal contact information database containing a pager number of the listing party; the personal contact information signal sent to the querying party containing the pager number of the listing party pursuant to the instruction of the consent/no consent signal generated by they listing party.

11. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 3 further comprising: the personal contact information database containing a time and place that the listing party will be available; the personal contact information signal sent to the querying party containing the time and place that the listing party will be available pursuant to the instruction of the consent/no consent signal generated by they listing party.

12. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 3 wherein the querying signal received by the bridge website server is generated by the querying party using a querying party's computer.

13. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 3 further comprising: the bridge website server capable of generating a bridge website that may be accessed by the querying party; the querying signal received by the bridge website server being generated by the querying party using a querying party's computer equipped with a web browser and modem for accessing the bridge website; said modem of the querying party's computer comprising of any device that allows one computer to communicate with a remote computer.

14. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 3 further comprising: the bridge website server capable of generating a bridge website that may be accessed by the listing party; the consent/no consent signal received by the bridge website server being generated by the listing party using a listing party's computer having a web browser and modem for accessing the bridge website; said modem of the listing party's comprising of any device that allows one computer to communicate with a remote computer.

15. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 3 further comprising: the bridge website server capable of generating a bridge website that may be accessed by the querying party; the querying signal received by the bridge website server being generated by the querying party using a querying party's computer having a web browser and modem for accessing the bridge website; said modem of the querying party's computer comprising of any device that allows one computer to communicate with a remote computer; the consent/no consent signal received by the bridge website server being generated by the listing party using a listing party's computer having a web browser and modem for accessing the bridge website; said modem of the listing party's comprising of any device that allows one computer to communicate with a remote computer.

16. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 3 further comprising: the bridge website server capable of generating a bridge website that may be accessed by the querying party; the querying signal received by the bridge website server being generated by the querying party using a querying party's computer having a web browser and modem for accessing the bridge website; said modem of the querying party's computer comprising of any device that allows one computer to communicate with a remote computer; the consent/no consent signal received by the bridge website server being generated by the listing party using a listing party's computer having a web browser and modem for accessing the bridge website; said modem of the listing party's comprising of any device that allows one computer to communicate with a remote computer; said querying signal, consent/no consent signal, personal contact information signal and query notification signal following the TCP/Internet Protocol.

17. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 3 wherein the registration facility of the bridge website server stores a name of the querying party and transmits it as a part of the query notification signal to the listing party.

18. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 3 wherein the registration facility of the bridge website server stores an e-mail address of the querying party and transmits it as a part of the query notification signal to the listing party.

19. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 3 wherein the registration facility of the bridge website server stores a responses to a questionnaire by the querying party and transmits it as a part of the query notification signal to the listing party.

20. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 3 wherein the registration facility of the bridge website server stores information from the group consisting of e-mail address, school(s) attended, credit card number, social security number, telephone number or residence of the querying party and transmits it as a part of the query notification signal to the listing party.

21. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 3 further wherein the query notification signal is sent to a listing party's computer as a signal from the group consisting of e-mail, e-mail with a voice attachment, or a real time Internet telephone call message.

22. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 3 further comprising: a database questionnaire signal that is sent to the listing party which prompts the listing party to generate a personal information storage signal that indicates the particular information the listing party would like to make available by the bridge website server and stored in the personal contact information directory database; said personal information storage signal comprising personal information sent to and received by the bridge website server.

23. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 3 further comprising: the bridge website server capable of generating a bridge website that may be accessed by the querying party and the listing party; a database questionnaire signal that is sent to the listing party which prompts the listing party to generate a personal information storage signal that indicates the particular information the listing party would like to make available by the bridge website server and stored in the personal contact information directory database; said personal information storage signal being received by the bridge website server.

24. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 3 further comprising: the bridge website server capable of generating a bridge website that may be accessed by the querying party and the listing party; a database questionnaire signal that is sent to the listing party which prompts the listing party to generate a personal information storage signal that indicates the particular information the listing party would like to make available by the bridge website server and stored in the personal contact information directory database; said personal information storage signal being received by the bridge website server. the personal information storage signal containing information from among the group consisting of the e-mail address of the listing party, the telephone number of the listing party, the fax number of the listing party, the pager number of the listing party, or the street address of the listing party.

25. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 3 further comprising: a database questionnaire signal that is sent to the listing party; said database questionnaire signal comprising one or more signals sent in any sequence or simultaneously that embodies a request for the personal contact information of the listing party that the listing party would like to have stored in the personal contact information directory, regardless as to whether the database questionnaire signal is modified or altered along its path to the listing party; a personal information storage signal that indicates the particular information the listing party would like to have stored in the personal contact information directory database; said personal information storage signal comprising one or more signals sent in any sequence or simultaneously from the listing party to the bridge website server that embodies personal contact information that the listing party would like to have stored in the personal contact information directory of the bridge website server, regardless as to whether the personal information storage signal is modified or altered along its path from the listing party to the bridge website server.

26. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 3 further comprising: the bridge website server capable of generating a bridge website that may be accessed by the querying party and the listing party; a database questionnaire signal that is sent to the listing party; said database questionnaire signal comprising one or more signals sent in any sequence or simultaneously that embodies a request for the personal contact information of the listing party that the listing party would like to have stored in the personal contact information directory, regardless as to whether the database questionnaire signal is modified or altered along its path to the listing party; a personal information storage signal that indicates the particular information the listing party would like to have stored in the personal contact information directory database; said personal information storage signal comprising one or more signals sent in any sequence or simultaneously from the listing party to the bridge website server that embodies personal contact information that the listing party would like to have stored in the personal contact information directory of the bridge website server, regardless as to whether the personal information storage signal is modified or altered along its path from the listing party to the bridge website server; the querying signal received by the bridge website server being generated by the querying party using a querying party's computer having a web browser and modem for accessing the bridge website; said modem of the querying party's computer comprising of any device that allows one computer to communicate with a remote computer; the consent/no consent signal received by the bridge website server being generated by the listing party using a listing party's computer having a web browser and modem for accessing the bridge website; said modem of the listing party's comprising of any device that allows one computer to communicate with a remote computer.

27. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 3 further comprising: the bridge website server capable of generating a bridge website that may be accessed by the querying party and the listing party; a database questionnaire signal that is sent to the listing party; said database questionnaire signal comprising one or more signals sent in any sequence or simultaneously that embodies a request for the personal contact information of the listing party that the listing party would like to have stored in the personal contact information directory, regardless as to whether the database questionnaire signal is modified or altered along its path to the listing party; a personal information storage signal that indicates the particular information the listing party would like to have stored in the personal contact information directory database; said personal information storage signal comprising one or more signals sent in any sequence or simultaneously from the listing party to the bridge website server that embodies personal contact information that the listing party would like to have stored in the personal contact information directory of the bridge website server, regardless as to whether the personal information storage signal is modified or altered along its path from the listing party to the bridge website server; the personal information storage signal containing information from among the group consisting of the e-mail address of the listing party, the telephone number of the listing party, the fax number of the listing party, the pager number of the listing party, or the street address of the listing party. the querying signal received by the bridge website server being generated by the querying party using a querying party's computer having a web browser and modem for accessing the bridge website; said modem of the querying party's computer comprising of any device that allows one computer to communicate with a remote computer; the consent/no consent signal received by the bridge website server being generated by the listing party using a listing party's computer having a web browser and modem for accessing the bridge website; said modem of the listing party's comprising of any device that allows one computer to communicate with a remote computer; the query notification signal sent to a listing party's computer as a signal from the group consisting of e-mail, e-mail with a voice attachment, or a real time Internet telephone call message.

28. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 3 wherein the personal contact information signal conforms to the TCP/IP protocol.

29. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 3 wherein the personal contact information is received by a telephonic peripheral of the querying party.

30. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 3 wherein the personal contact information contained in the personal contact information signal is in the form of telephone call to a pager with a screen display.

31. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 3 wherein the personal contact information contained in the personal contact information signal is in the form a voice telephone call.

32. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 3 wherein the personal contact information contained in the personal contact information signal is in the form an analog voice telephone call.

33. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 3 wherein the personal contact information signal is sent to a telephonic peripheral of the querying party.

34. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 3 wherein the personal contact information contained in the query notification signal is in the form of an analog telephone call to a pager with a screen display to the querying party.

35. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 3 wherein the personal contact information contained in the personal contact information signal sent to the querying party is in the form of a voice telephone call.

36. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 3 wherein the query notification signal is sent to a listing party's telephonic peripheral.

37. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 3 wherein the query notification signal is sent to a listing party's pager.

38. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 3 wherein the query notification signal is sent to a telephone with a screen display.

39. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 3 wherein the query notification signal is sent to a listing party's analog telephone.

40. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 3 wherein the query notification signal is sent to a listing party's cellular or digital telephone.

41. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 3 wherein the query notification signal is sent to a listing party's telephonic peripheral and the consent/no consent signal is sent from the listing party's telephonic peripheral.

42. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 3 wherein the query notification signal is sent to a listing party's voice telephone and the consent/no consent signal is sent from the listing party's voice telephone.

43. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 3 wherein the query notification signal is sent to a listing party's analog voice telephone and the consent/no consent signal is sent from the listing party's analog voice telephone.

44. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 3 wherein the query notification signal is sent to a listing party's telephone with a screen display and the consent/no consent signal is sent from the listing party's telephone with a screen display.

45. A web-based personal contact information system comprising: a bridge website server located on the Internet; said bridge website server comprising any computer, sub-component of a computer, or group of computers, or any combination thereof, that possesses the capacity of maintaining a client/server environment on the Internet; said bridge website server having a personal contact information directory database that is capable of storing personal contact information of a listing party; said bridge website server receiving a parameter requirements signal generated by the listing party that is sent to the bridge website server; said parameter requirements signal comprising one or more signals sent in any sequence or simultaneously to the bridge website server that embodies established parameters wherein certain, if any, personal contact information contained in the personal contact information directory database of a bridge website server will be sent to a querying party, regardless as to whether the parameter requirements signal is modified or altered along its path from the listing party to the bridge website server; said bridge website server receiving a request for information signal comprising one or more signals sent in any sequence or simultaneously from the querying party that embodies a request for the personal contact information of the listing party, regardless as to whether the querying signal is modified or altered along its path from the querying party to the bridge website server; said bride website server generating a questionnaire signal for the querying party that is sent to the querying party; said questionnaire signal for the query party comprising one or more signals sent in any sequence or simultaneously sent from the bridge website server that embodies a questionnaire for the querying, regardless as to whether the questionnaire signal for the querying party is modified or altered along its path from the bridge website server to the querying party; said bridge website server receiving a questionnaire response signal from the querying party; said questionnaire response signal from the query party comprising one or more signals sent in any sequence or simultaneously sent to the bridge website server from the querying party that embodies a response to the questionnaire by the querying party, regardless as to whether the questionnaire response signal from the querying party is modified or altered along its path from the querying party to the bridge website server.

46. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 45 further comprising: said bridge website sever generating a personal contact information signal; said personal contact information signal sent to the querying party; said personal contact information signal containing the personal contact information of the listing party that was directed to be sent to the querying party according to dictates of the parameter requirements signal generated by the listing party and the response to the questionnaire embodied in the questionnaire response signal from the query party; said personal contact information signal comprising one or more signals sent in any sequence or simultaneously to the querying party that embodies the personal contact information that is to be sent to the querying party, regardless as to whether the personal contact information signal is modified or altered along its path from the bridge website server to the listing party.

47. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 46 further comprising: said personal contact information signal containing information from among the group consisting of the e-mail address of the listing party, the telephone number of the listing party, the fax number of the listing party, the pager number of the listing party, or the street address of the listing party.

48. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 45 further comprising: said parameter requirements signal being generated by a listing party's computer; said questionnaire signal for the querying party being received by a querying party's computer; said query signal and said questionnaire response signal from the querying party being generated by the querying party's computer.

49. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 45 further comprising: said parameter requirements signal being generated by a listing party's computer having a web browser and modem; said questionnaire signal for the querying party being received by a querying party's computer having a web browser and modem; said modem of the querying party's computer comprising of any device that allows one computer to communicate with a remote computer. said query signal and said questionnaire response signal from the querying party being generated by the querying party's computer having a web and modem.

50. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 45 further comprising: a database questionnaire signal that is sent to the listing party; said database questionnaire signal comprising one or more signals sent in any sequence or simultaneously that embodies a request for the personal contact information of the listing party that the listing party would like to have stored in the personal contact information directory, regardless as to whether the database questionnaire signal is modified or altered along its path from the bridge website server to the listing party.

51. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 46 further comprising: the bridge website server capable of generating a bridge website that may be accessed by the querying party and the listing party; a database questionnaire signal that is sent to the listing party; said database questionnaire signal comprising one or more signals sent in any sequence or simultaneously that embodies a request for the personal contact information of the listing party that the listing party would like to have stored in the personal contact information directory, regardless as to whether the database questionnaire signal is modified or altered along its path to the listing party; a personal information storage signal that indicates the particular information the listing party would like to have stored in the personal contact information directory database; said personal information storage signal comprising one or more signals sent in any sequence or simultaneously from the listing party to the bridge website server that embodies personal contact information that the listing party would like to have stored in the personal contact information directory of the bridge website server, regardless as to whether the personal information storage signal is modified or altered along its path from the listing party to the bridge website server; the request for information signal and the questionnaire response from the query party received by the bridge website server being generated by the querying party using a querying party's computer. the querying party's computer having a web browser and modem for accessing the bridge website; said modem of the querying party's computer comprising of any device that allows one computer to communicate with a remote computer; said parameter requirements signal and personal information storage signal generated by the listing party's computer; said listing party's computer having a web browser and modem for accessing the bridge website; said modem of the listing party's comprising of any device that allows one computer to communicate with a remote computer.

52. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 46 further comprising: said personal contact information signal providing complete disclosure of the listing party's personal contact information, based upon the parameter requirements signal generated by the listing party and the questionnaire response signal generated by the querying party

53. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 45 further comprising: said personal contact information signal providing partial disclosure of the personal contact information, based upon the parameter requirements signal generated by the listing party and the questionnaire response signal generated by the querying party

54. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 45 further comprising: said personal contact information signal denying any disclosure of personal contact information but notifying the querying party that they will contact the querying party directly, based upon the parameter requirements signal generated by the listing party and the questionnaire response signal generated by the querying party

55. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 45 further comprising: said personal contact information signal denying any disclosure of personal information and requesting more complete identification information from the querying party by sending another questionnaire signal for the querying party which will prompt the querying party for more information, based upon the parameter requirements signal generated by the listing party and the questionnaire response signal generated by the querying party

56. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 45 further comprising: said personal contact information signal deny any disclosure but sending a message to the querying party, based upon the parameter requirements signal generated by the listing party and the questionnaire response signal generated by the querying party

57. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 45 further comprising: said personal contact information signal denying any disclosure and not responding in any other way to the querying party by way of an additional message, based upon the parameter requirements signal generated by the listing party and the questionnaire response signal generated by the querying party

58. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 45 wherein the parameter for releasing personal contact information is the name of the querying party.

59. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 45 wherein the parameter for releasing personal contact information is a demographic profile of the querying party.

60. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 45 wherein the parameter for releasing personal contact information is the address (be it street address, zip code, or geographical area) of the querying party.

61. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 45 wherein the parameter for releasing personal contact information is the educational history of the querying party.

62. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 45 wherein the parameter for releasing personal contact information is the present school of the querying party.

63. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 45 wherein the parameter for releasing personal contact information is the employment history of the querying party.

64. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 45 wherein the parameter for releasing personal contact information is the present employment of the querying party.

65. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 45 wherein the parameter for releasing personal contact information is the club membership of the querying party.

66. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 45 wherein the parameter for releasing personal contact information is the interest of the querying party.

67. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 45 wherein the parameter for releasing personal contact information is the religion of the querying party.

68. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 45 wherein the parameter for releasing personal contact information is the parish affiliation of the querying party.

69. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 45 wherein the parameter for releasing personal contact information is the gender of the querying party

70. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 45 wherein the parameter for releasing personal contact information is the family relation of the querying party.

71. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 45 wherein the parameter for releasing personal contact information is the password known by the querying party

72. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 45 wherein the parameter for releasing personal contact information is based on a systematic weighing of parameters of the querying party.

73. An improved method of screening personal contact information from an electronic or telephonic database, the improvement comprising: receiving a parameter requirements signal containing information as to what personal contact information should be made available to a querying party based upon a response to a questionnaire; receiving a querying signal embodying a request for personal contact information of the listing party; sending a questionnaire signal to the querying party asking for information regarding the querying party; receiving a questionnaire response signal from the querying party providing answers to the questionnaire; sending a personal contact information signal to a querying party based upon the received questionnaire response signal containing responses to a questionnaire and the parameter requirements established in the parameter requirement signal.

74. The method of claim 73 wherein the parameter requirements signal, the querying signal, the questionnaire signal to the querying party, the questionnaire response signal from the querying party, and the personal contact information signal to the querying party are all sent over the Internet.

75. An improved method of providing personal contact information from an electronic or telephonic database, the improvement comprising: receiving a querying signal generated over the Internet by a querying party; said querying signal comprising one or more signals sent in any sequence or simultaneously from the querying party that embodies both a request for the personal contact information of a listing party and also embodies a communication of identifying information about the querying party; generating a query notification signal over the Internet that notifies the listing party that there has been a query for the personal information of the listing party; said query notification signal notifying the listing party of the communication of identifying information of the listing party; said query notification signal comprising one or more signals sent in any sequence or simultaneously to the listing party that embodies both a request for the personal contact information of the listing party and also embodies a communication of identifying information about the querying party.

76. The method of claim 75 further comprising: receiving a consent/no consent signal over the Internet from the listing party; said consent/no consent signal directing what, if any, personal contact information is to be sent to the querying party; said consent/no consent signal comprising one or more signals sent in any sequence or simultaneously from the listing party that embodies an instruction as to what personal information, if any, is to be sent to the querying party.

77. The method of claim 76 further comprising: generating a personal contact information signal over the Internet to the querying party; said personal contact information signal containing the personal contact information of the listing party that was directed to be sent to the querying party according to dictates of the consent/no consent signal generated by the listing party; said personal contact information signal comprising one or more signals sent in any sequence or simultaneously to the querying party that embodies the personal information that is to be sent to the querying party.

78. The method of claim 77 further comprising the step of generating a bridge website that may be accessed by the querying party.

79. The method of claim 78 wherein both the querying signal and the consent/no consent signal follows the TCP/Internet Protocol.

80. The method of claim 77 further comprising: the personal contact information database containing an e-mail address of the listing party; the personal contact information signal containing the e-mail address of the listing party pursuant to the instruction of the consent/no consent signal generated by they listing party.

81. The method of claim 77 further comprising: the personal contact information database containing a telephone number of the listing party; the personal contact information signal containing the telephone number of the listing party pursuant to the instruction of the consent/no consent signal generated by they listing party.

82. The method of claim 77 further comprising: the personal contact information database containing a street address of the listing party; the personal contact information signal containing the street address of the listing party pursuant to the instruction of the consent/no consent signal generated by they listing party.

83. The method of claim 77 further comprising: the personal contact information database containing a fax number of the listing party; the personal contact information signal containing the fax number of the listing party pursuant to the instruction of the consent/no consent signal generated by they listing party.

84. The method of claim 77 further comprising: the personal contact information database containing a pager number of the listing party; the personal contact information signal containing the pager number of the listing party pursuant to the instruction of the consent/no consent signal generated by they listing party.

85. The method of claim 77 further comprising: the personal contact information database containing a time and place that the listing party will be available; the personal contact information signal the time and place that the listing party will be available pursuant to the instruction of the consent/no consent signal generated by they listing party.

86. The method of claim 77 wherein the querying signal is generated by the querying party using a querying party's computer.

87. The method of claim 77 further comprising the step of generating a bridge website that may be accessed by the querying party, wherein the querying signal is generated by the querying party using a querying party's computer having a web browser and modem; said modem of the querying party's computer comprising of any device that allows one computer to communicate with a remote computer.

88. The method of claim 77 further comprising the step of generating a bridge website that may be accessed by the listing party, wherein the consent/no consent signal is generated by the listing party using a listing party's computer having a web browser and modem; said modem of the listing party's comprising of any device that allows one computer to communicate with a remote computer.

89. The method of claim 77 further comprising the step of generating a bridge website that may be accessed by the querying party; wherein: the querying signal is generated by the querying party using a querying party's computer having a web browser and modem; said modem of the querying party's computer comprising of any device that allows one computer to communicate with a remote computer; the consent/no consent signal is generated by the listing party using a listing party's computer having a web browser and modem; said modem of the listing party's comprising of any device that allows one computer to communicate with a remote computer.

90. The method of claim 77 further comprising the step of generating a bridge website that may be accessed by the querying party wherein: the querying signal is generated by the querying party using a querying party's computer having a web browser and modem; said modem of the querying party's computer comprising of any device that allows one computer to communicate with a remote computer; the consent/no consent signal is generated by the listing party using a listing party's computer having a web browser and modem; said modem of the listing party's comprising of any device that allows one computer to communicate with a remote computer; said querying signal, consent/no consent signal, personal contact information signal and query notification signal following the TCP/Internet Protocol.

91. The method of claim 77 further comprising the step of storing a name of the querying party and transmitting it as a part of the query notification signal to the listing party.

92. The method of claim 77 further comprising the step storing an e-mail address of the querying party and transmitting it as a part of the query notification signal to the listing party.

93. The method of claim 77 further comprising the step of storing a responses to a questionnaire by the querying party and transmitting it as a part of the query notification signal to the listing party.

94. The method of claim 77 further comprising the step of storing information from the group consisting of e-mail address, school(s) attended, credit card number, social security number, telephone number or residence of the querying party and transmits it as a part of the query notification signal to the listing party.

95. The method of claim 77 wherein the query notification signal is sent to a listing party's computer as a signal from the group consisting of e-mail, e-mail with a voice attachment, or a real time Internet telephone call message.

96. The method of claim 77 further comprising: generating a database questionnaire signal that is sent over the Internet to the listing party, which prompts the listing party to generate a personal information storage signal that indicates the particular information, the listing party would like to make available.

97. The method of claim 77 further comprising the steps of: generating a bridge website that may be accessed by the querying party and the listing party; generating a database questionnaire signal that is sent over the Internet to the listing party which prompts the listing party to generate a personal information storage signal that is sent over the Internet and that indicates the particular information the listing party would like to make available to the querying party.

98. The method of claim 77 further comprising the steps of: generating a bridge website that may be accessed by the querying party and the listing party; generating a database questionnaire signal that is sent over the Internet to the listing party which prompts the listing party to generate a personal information storage signal over the Internet that indicates the particular information the listing party would like to make available to the querying party; wherein: the personal information storage signal containing information from among the group consisting of the e-mail address of the listing party, the telephone number of the listing party, the fax number of the listing party, the pager number of the listing party, or the street address of the listing party.

99. The method of claim 77 further comprising: generating a database questionnaire signal over the Internet that is sent to the listing party; said database questionnaire signal comprising one or more signals sent in any sequence or simultaneously that embodies a request for the personal contact information of the listing party; receiving a personal information storage signal over the Internet that indicates the particular information the listing party would like to have stored; said personal information storage signal comprising one or more signals sent in any sequence or simultaneously from the listing party that embodies personal contact information that the listing party would like to have stored.

100. The method of claim 77 further comprising the steps of: generating a bridge website that may be accessed by the querying party and the listing party; generating a database questionnaire signal over the Internet that is sent to the listing party; said database questionnaire signal comprising one or more signals sent in any sequence or simultaneously that embodies a request for the personal contact information of the listing party that the listing party would like to have stored; receiving a personal information storage signal over the Internet that indicates the particular information the listing party would like to have stored; said personal information storage signal comprising one or more signals sent in any sequence or simultaneously from the listing party that embodies personal contact information that the listing party would like to have stored; wherein: the querying signal is generated by the querying party using a querying party's computer having a web browser and modem; said modem of the querying party's computer comprising of any device that allows one computer to communicate with a remote computer; the consent/no consent signal is generated by the listing party using a listing party's computer having a web browser and modem; said modem of the listing party's comprising of any device that allows one computer to communicate with a remote computer.

101. The method of claim 77 further comprising: generating a bridge website that may be accessed by the querying party and the listing party; generating a database questionnaire signal that is sent to the listing party over the Internet; said database questionnaire signal comprising one or more signals sent in any sequence or simultaneously that embodies a request for the personal contact information of the listing party that the listing party would like to have stored; receiving a personal information storage signal that indicates the particular information the listing party would like to have; said personal information storage signal comprising one or more signals sent in any sequence or simultaneously from the listing party that embodies personal contact information that the listing party would like to have stored; wherein: the personal information storage signal containing information is comprised from among the group consisting of the e-mail address of the listing party, the telephone number of the listing party, the fax number of the listing party, the pager number of the listing party, or the street address of the listing party; the querying signal is generated by the querying party using a querying party's computer having a web browser and modem; said modem of the querying party's computer comprising of any device that allows one computer to communicate with a remote computer; the consent/no consent signal is generated by the listing party using a listing party's computer having a web browser and modem; said modem of the listing party's comprising of any device that allows one computer to communicate with a remote computer; the query notification signal sent to a listing party's computer as a signal from the group consisting of e-mail, e-mail with a voice attachment, or a real time Internet telephone call message.

102. The method of claim 77 wherein the personal contact information signal conforms to the TCP/IP protocol.

103. The method of claim 77 wherein the personal contact information is received by a telephonic peripheral of the querying party.

104. The method of claim 77 wherein the personal contact information contained in the personal contact information signal is in the form of telephone call to a pager with a screen display.

105. The method of claim 77 wherein the personal contact information contained in the personal contact information signal is in the form a voice telephone call.

106. The method of claim 77 wherein the personal contact information contained in the personal contact information signal is in the form an analog voice telephone call.

107. The method of claim 77 wherein the personal contact information signal is sent to a telephonic peripheral of the querying party.

108. The method of claim 77 wherein the personal contact information contained in the query notification signal is in the form of an analog telephone call to a pager with a screen display to the querying party.

109. The method of claim 77 wherein the personal contact information contained in the personal contact information signal sent to the querying party is in the form a voice telephone call.

110. The method of claim 77 wherein the query notification signal is sent to a listing party's telephonic peripheral.

111. The method of claim 77 wherein the query notification signal is sent to a listing party's pager.

112. The method of claim 77 wherein the query notification signal is sent to a telephone with a screen display.

113. The method of claim 77 wherein the query notification signal is sent to a listing party's analog telephone.

114. The method of claim 77 wherein the query notification signal is sent to a listing party's cellular or digital telephone.

115. The method of claim 77 wherein the query notification signal is sent to a listing party's telephonic peripheral and the consent/no consent signal is sent from the listing party's telephonic peripheral.

116. The method of claim 77 wherein the query notification signal is sent to a listing party's voice telephone and the consent/no consent signal is sent from the listing party's voice telephone.

117. The method of claim 77 wherein the query notification signal is sent to a listing party's analog voice telephone and the consent/no consent signal is sent from the listing party's analog voice telephone.

118. The method of claim 77 wherein the query notification signal is sent to a listing party's telephone with a screen display and the consent/no consent signal is sent from the listing party's telephone with a screen display.

119. A method of screening personal contact information comprising: receiving a querying signal embodying a request for personal contact information of a listing party; receiving a consent/no consent signal establishing what personal contact information will be made available to a querying party.

120. The method of claim 119 further comprising: generating a query notification signal that is sent to a listing party which notifies the listing party of the existence of a query for personal contact information of the listing party and which provides identifying information about the querying party; generating a personal contact information signal that is sent to a querying party that provides the personal contact information that the listing party desired to make available to the querying party.

121. The method of claim 120 further comprising the step of generating a bridge website.

122. The method of claim 120 further comprising the steps of generating a database questionnaire signal and receiving a personal information storage signal.

123. The method of claim 119 wherein both the stops of receiving a querying signal embodying a request for personal contact information of a listing party and receiving a consent/no consent signal establishing what personal contact information will be made available to a querying party are not performed over the Internet.

124. The method of claim 119 wherein both the stops of receiving a querying signal embodying a request for personal contact information of a listing party and receiving a consent/no consent signal establishing what personal contact information will be made available to a querying party are performed over the Internet.

125. The method of claim 120 wherein both the stops of receiving a querying signal embodying a request for personal contact information of a listing party and receiving a consent/no consent signal establishing what personal contact information will be made available to a querying party are not performed over the Internet; and wherein both the steps of generating a query notification signal that is sent to a listing party which notifies the listing party of the existence of a query for personal contact information of the listing party and which provides identifying information about the querying party are not performed over the Internet.

126. The method of claim 120 wherein both the stops of receiving a querying signal embodying a request for personal contact information of a listing party and receiving a consent/no consent signal establishing what personal contact information will be made available to a querying party are performed over the Internet; and wherein both the steps of generating a query notification signal that is sent to a listing party which notifies the listing party of the existence of a query for personal contact information of the listing party and which provides identifying information about the querying party are performed over the Internet.

127. The method of claim 122 wherein both the stops of receiving a querying signal embodying a request for personal contact information of a listing party and receiving a consent/no consent signal establishing what personal contact information will be made available to a querying party are not performed over the Internet; and wherein both the steps of generating a query notification signal that is sent to a listing party which notifies the listing party of the existence of a query for personal contact information of the listing party and which provides identifying information about the querying party are not performed over the Internet; and wherein the steps of generating a database questionnaire signal and receiving a personal information storage signal are not performed over the Internet.

128. The method of claim 122 wherein both the stops of receiving a querying signal embodying a request for personal contact information of a listing party and receiving a consent/no consent signal establishing what personal contact information will be made available to a querying party are performed over the Internet; and wherein both the steps of generating a query notification signal that is sent to a listing party which notifies the listing party of the existence of a query for personal contact information of the listing party and which provides identifying information about the querying party are performed over the Internet; and wherein the steps of generating a database questionnaire signal and receiving a personal information storage signal are performed over the Internet.

129. A web-based personal contact information system comprising: a bridge website server having a personal contact information database; said bridge website server comprising any computer, sub-component of a computer, or group of computers, or any combination thereof, that possesses the capacity of maintaining a client/server environment on the Internet; means for screening which personal contact information will be received by a querying party by establishing questionnaire parameters.

130. A web-based personal contact information system comprising: a bridge website server having a personal contact information database; said bridge website server comprising any computer, sub-component of a computer, or group of computers, or any combination thereof, that possesses the capacity of maintaining a client/server environment on the Internet; means for screening which personal contact information will be received by a querying party by having the listing party screen individual queries for personal information.

131. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 1 wherein the query notification signal contains an identifying picture.

132. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 1 wherein the query notification signal contains an identifying picture of the querying party.

133. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 3 wherein the query notification signal contains an identifying picture.

134. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 3 wherein the query notification signal contains an identifying picture of the querying party.

135. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 1 wherein the query notification signal contains an identifying voice sample.

136. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 1 wherein the query notification signal contains an identifying voice sample of the querying party.

137. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 3 wherein the query notification signal contains an identifying voice sample.

138. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 3 wherein the query notification signal contains an identifying voice sample of the querying party.

139. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 1 wherein the bridge website server is further comprised of an attempt counter and wherein if the querying party exceeds a maxim number of allowed contact attempts, the querying party is shutoff and the listing party receives no more query notification signals whose origins is the shutoff querying party.

140. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 2 wherein the bridge website server is further comprised of an attempt counter and wherein if the querying party exceeds a maxim allowed number of contact attempts, the querying party is shutoff and the listing party receives no more query notification signals whose origins is the shutoff querying party.

141. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 3 wherein the bridge website server is further comprised of an attempt counter and wherein if the querying party exceeds a maxim allowed number of contact attempts, the querying party is shutoff and the listing party receives no more query notification signals whose origins is the shutoff querying party.

142. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 3 wherein the querying signal is generated by a querying party's computer, the personal contact information signal is received by the querying party's computer, the query notification signal is received by a listing party's computer, and the consent/no consent signal is generated by the listing party's computer.

143. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 3 wherein the querying signal is generated by a querying party's computer, the personal contact information signal is received by a querying party's telephonic peripheral, the query notification signal is received by a listing party's computer, and the consent/no consent signal is generated by the listing party's computer.

144. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 3 wherein the querying signal is generated by a querying party's computer, the personal contact information signal is received by the querying party's computer, the query notification signal is received by a listing party's telephonic peripheral, and the consent/no consent signal is generated by a listing party's computer.

145. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 3 wherein the querying signal is generated by a querying party's computer, the personal contact information signal is received by the querying party's computer, the query notification signal is received by a listing party's computer, and the consent/no consent signal is generated by a listing party's telephonic peripheral.

146. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 3 wherein the querying signal is generated by a querying party's computer, the personal contact information signal is received by the querying party's computer, the query notification signal is received by a listing party's telephonic peripheral, and the consent/no consent signal is generated by the listing party's telephonic peripheral.

147. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 3 wherein the querying signal is generated by a querying party's computer, the personal contact information signal is received by a querying party's telephonic peripheral, the query notification signal is received by a listing party's computer, and the consent/no consent signal is generated by a listing party's telephonic peripheral.

148. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 3 wherein the querying signal is generated by a querying party's computer, the personal contact information signal is received by a querying party's telephonic peripheral, the query notification signal is received by a listing party's telephonic peripheral, and the consent/no consent signal is generated by a listing party's computer.

149. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 3 wherein the querying signal is generated by a querying party's computer, the personal contact information signal is received by a querying party's telephonic peripheral, the query notification signal is received by a listing party's telephonic peripheral, and the consent/no consent signal is generated by the listing party's telephonic peripheral.

150. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 3 wherein the querying signal is generated by a querying party's telephonic peripheral, the personal contact information signal is received by a querying party's computer, the query notification signal is received by a listing party's computer, and the consent/no consent signal is generated by the listing party's telephonic computer.

151. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 3 wherein the querying signal is generated by a querying party's telephonic peripheral, the personal contact information signal is received by a querying party's computer, the query notification signal is received by a listing party's computer, and the consent/no consent signal is generated by a listing party's telephonic peripheral.

152. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 3 wherein the querying signal is generated by a querying party's telephonic peripheral, the personal contact information signal is received by a querying party's computer, the query notification signal is received by a listing party's telephonic peripheral, and the consent/no consent signal is generated by a listing party's computer.

153. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 3 wherein the querying signal is generated by a querying party's telephonic peripheral, the personal contact information signal is received by a querying party's computer, the query notification signal is received by a listing party's telephonic peripheral, and the consent/no consent signal is generated by the listing party's telephonic peripheral.

154. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 3 wherein the querying signal is generated by a querying party's telephonic peripheral, the personal contact information signal is received by the querying party's telephonic peripheral, the query notification signal is received by a listing party's computer, and the consent/no consent signal is generated by the listing party's telephonic computer.

155. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 3 wherein the querying signal is generated by a querying party's telephonic peripheral, the personal contact information signal is received by the querying party's telephonic peripheral, the query notification signal is received by a listing party's computer, and the consent/no consent signal is generated by a listing party's telephonic peripheral.

156. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 3 wherein the querying signal is generated by a querying party's telephonic peripheral, the personal contact information signal is received by the querying party's telephonic peripheral, the query notification signal is received by a listing party's telephonic peripheral, and the consent/no consent signal is generated by a listing party's computer.

157. The web-based personal contact information system of claim 3 wherein the querying signal is generated by a querying party's telephonic peripheral, the personal contact information signal is received by the querying party's telephonic peripheral, the query notification signal is received by a listing party's telephonic peripheral, and the consent/no consent signal is generated by the listing party's telephonic peripheral.

158. An improved method of providing an electronic or telephonic database of personal contact information of a listing party, the improvement comprising: receiving a querying signal generated by a querying party; said querying signal comprising one or more signals sent in any sequence or simultaneously from the querying party that embodies both a request for the personal contact information of a listing party and also embodies a communication of identifying information about the querying party, regardless as to whether the querying signal is modified or altered along its path from the querying party; generating a query notification signal that notifies the listing party that there has been a query for the personal contact information of the listing party; said query notification signal notifying the listing party of the communication of identifying information of the listing party; said query notification signal comprising one or more signals sent in any sequence or simultaneously to the listing party that embodies both a request for the personal contact information of the listing party and also embodies a communication of identifying information about the querying party, regardless as to whether the querying notification signal is modified or altered along its path to the listing party;

159. The improved method of claim 158 further comprising: receiving a consent/no consent signal from the listing party; said consent/no consent signal directing what, if any, personal contact information is to be sent to the querying party; said consent/no consent signal comprising one or more signals sent in any sequence or simultaneously from the listing party that embodies an instruction as to what personal contact information, if any, is to be sent to the querying party, regardless as to whether the consent/no consent signal is modified or altered along its path from the listing party.

160. The improved method of claim 159 further comprising: generating a personal contact information signal generated to be sent to the querying party; said personal contact information signal containing the personal contact information of the listing party that was directed to be sent to the querying party according to dictates of the consent/no consent signal generated by the listing party; said personal contact information signal comprising one or more signals sent in any sequence or simultaneously to the querying party that embodies the personal contact information that is to be sent to the querying party, regardless as to whether the personal contact information signal is modified or altered along its path to the querying party.

161. The improved method of claim 160 wherein the querying signal is generated by a querying party's computer, the personal contact information signal is received by the querying party's computer, the query notification signal is received by a listing party's computer, and the consent/no consent signal is generated by the listing party's computer.

162. The improved method of claim 160 wherein the querying signal is generated by a querying party's computer, the personal contact information signal is received by a querying party's telephonic peripheral, the query notification signal is received by a listing party's computer, and the consent/no consent signal is generated by the listing party's computer.

163. The improved method of claim 160 wherein the querying signal is generated by a querying party's computer, the personal contact information signal is received by the querying party's computer, the query notification signal is received by a listing party's telephonic peripheral, and the consent/no consent signal is generated by a listing party's computer.

164. The improved method of claim 160 wherein the querying signal is generated by a querying party's computer, the personal contact information signal is received by the querying party's computer, the query notification signal is received by a listing party's computer, and the consent/no consent signal is generated by a listing party's telephonic peripheral.

165. The improved method of claim 160 wherein the querying signal is generated by a querying party's computer, the personal contact information signal is received by the querying party's computer, the query notification signal is received by a listing party's telephonic peripheral, and the consent/no consent signal is generated by the listing party's telephonic peripheral.

166. The improved method of claim 160 wherein the querying signal is generated by a querying party's computer, the personal contact information signal is received by a querying party's telephonic peripheral, the query notification signal is received by a listing party's computer, and the consent/no consent signal is generated by a listing party's telephonic peripheral.

167. The improved method of claim 160 wherein the querying signal is generated by a querying party's computer, the personal contact information signal is received by a querying party's telephonic peripheral, the query notification signal is received by a listing party's telephonic peripheral, and the consent/no consent signal is generated by a listing party's computer.

168. The improved method of claim 160 wherein the querying signal is generated by a querying party's computer, the personal contact information signal is received by a querying party's telephonic peripheral, the query notification signal is received by a listing party's telephonic peripheral, and the consent/no consent signal is generated by the listing party's telephonic peripheral.

169. The improved method of claim 160 wherein the querying signal is generated by a querying party's telephonic peripheral, the personal contact information signal is received by a querying party's computer, the query notification signal is received by a listing party's computer, and the consent/no consent signal is generated by the listing party's telephonic computer.

170. The improved method of claim 160 wherein the querying signal is generated by a querying party's telephonic peripheral, the personal contact information signal is received by a querying party's computer, the query notification signal is received by a listing party's computer, and the consent/no consent signal is generated by a listing party's telephonic peripheral.

171. The improved method of claim 160 wherein the querying signal is generated by a querying party's telephonic peripheral, the personal contact information signal is received by a querying party's computer, the query notification signal is received by a listing party's telephonic peripheral, and the consent/no consent signal is generated by a listing party's computer.

172. The improved method of claim 160 wherein the querying signal is generated by a querying party's telephonic peripheral, the personal contact information signal is received by a querying party's computer, the query notification signal is received by a listing party's telephonic peripheral, and the consent/no consent signal is generated by the listing party's telephonic peripheral.

173. The improved method of claim 160 wherein the querying signal is generated by a querying party's telephonic peripheral, the personal contact information signal is received by the querying party's telephonic peripheral, the query notification signal is received by a listing party's computer, and the consent/no consent signal is generated by the listing party's telephonic computer.

174. The improved method of claim 160 wherein the querying signal is generated by a querying party's telephonic peripheral, the personal contact information signal is received by the querying party's telephonic peripheral, the query notification signal is received by a listing party's computer, and the consent/no consent signal is generated by a listing party's telephonic peripheral.

175. The improved method of claim 160 wherein the querying signal is generated by a querying party's telephonic peripheral, the personal contact information signal is received by the querying party's telephonic peripheral, the query notification signal is received by a listing party's telephonic peripheral, and the consent/no consent signal is generated by a listing party's computer.

176. The improved method of claim 160 wherein the querying signal is generated by a querying party's telephonic peripheral, the personal contact information signal is received by the querying party's telephonic peripheral, the query notification signal is received by a listing party's telephonic peripheral, and the consent/no consent signal is generated by the listing party's telephonic peripheral.

177. The improved method of claim 176 wherein the querying signal is received over the public telephone system, the personal contact information signal is generated over the public telephone system, the query notification signal is generated over the public telephone system, and the consent/no consent signal is received over the public telephone system.

178. The improved method of claim 160 further comprising: counting the number of attempts by the querying party to obtain the personal contact information of the listing party; shutting off a querying party from causing additional query notification signals to be generated when the number of attempts to obtain personal contact information exceeds a pre-established limit.
Description



BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0001] Many people would like to list their e-mail addresses, residential addresses, and telephone numbers in directories located on the Internet so that their friends and colleagues may contact them. These directories include, by way of example, anywho.com, switchboard.com, bigfoot.com, Yahoo! People search at people.yahoo.com, and whowhere.com. The party listing their personal contact information will be known as the "listing party," and the party seeking the contact information of the listing party will be called the "querying party."

[0002] These web-based directories operate on a common principal--the querying party goes to the appropriate website and then enters the name of the person they are trying to search (the listing party), and the search engine finds the listing party's e-mail (or other contact information such as residential address and telephone number) and displays it to the querying party. Some of these directories ask the querying party for additional information apart from the name of the listing party, such as the city and state of the listing party, or the domain name of the e-mail address of the listing party. The web-based directories serve an important function. It is of great interest to the listing party to be found by desired contacts, friends and acquaintances. It also is of interest to the querying party that these directories be complete enough so the querying party can contact that long lost high school friend or college study-mate.

[0003] Being listed in a web-based directory is often as important if not more important than being listed in the phone book because it is a cost efficient mechanism for being contacted from afar. Most people do not have phone books for areas they do not live and long-distance directory information is expensive. Exacerbating the problem is the fact that many querying parties do not know the particular city or even state of the person they are looking for, making the ability to perform a nationwide or international search that much more critical. In addition, of course, telephone directories provide only telephone numbers and do not have email addresses or other contact information. The severe limits of telephone directories make on-line directories critical for those querying parties that would like to reach their long lost friends by e-mail or any means outside of a land telephone. When these web-based directories are incomplete, two people often suffer: the people who want to be contacted and those who would like to make the contact.

[0004] Unfortunately, due to privacy consideration, many people refuse to list their personal contact information on databases that can be publicly accessed. These potential listing parties want to have their personal information made available to some people, but not everyone. Like the person who keeps their telephone number unlisted in published telephone directories, these people refuse to have their e-mail made available to the general public for fear of being barraged by SPAM e-mails. (As used in this specification, the term "SPAM" refers to mass-mailed and unsolicited e-mails, usually (but not always) unwanted by the recipient.) They are also afraid to have their residential addresses be made available for fear of obtaining junk mail, and their telephone numbers made available for fear of receiving unsolicited and undesired telephone calls from telemarketers. Some people simply do not want their whereabouts or contact information made known to certain specific other parties, for an infinite variety of reasons. Like many who refuse to be listed in telephone directories, many do so for personal safety reasons. The problem with current web-based directories is that they provide no gatekeeper feature. Personal contact information is made available to anybody whether or not the listing party wants to be contacted by the querying party. Once you are listed, everybody--good, bad, and indifferent--has access to the personal contact information.

[0005] The problem of unwanted contact is heightened by heavy marketing activities of commercial interests seeking to expand their customer bases. These techniques are commonly referred to as "mass marketing." These efforts include mass paper mailings, telephone cold-calling, or SPAM. As the cost of making a contact decreases, the percentage of efforts that needs to be successful to justify the cost of the marketing effort decreases. Even outside the Internet context, depending on the campaign type cost, between one-percent to five-percent of contacted parties need only respond to a marketing effort to justify the marketing expenses. As the profit margin on a particular item increases, the success rate of each attempted contact can decrease. What are colloquially referred to as "big ticket items" such as cars or travel can have success rates even below one percent and still be effective. The only barrier to the number of contacts is the cost of each particular contact. As the cost of each individual contact increases, targeting to a likely buyer must increase to make the marketing effort economically viable. Otherwise, the cost of the marketing campaign could surpass the profits derived from it. Price, historically, has been a natural barrier to indiscriminate marketing efforts. As the cost of these methods of communication declines and the required success rate in turn declines, the prevalence of these campaigns increase. Cheaper marketing means more marketing. Advertisers have less incentive to limit their marketing efforts by targeting those most likely to buy a particular good or service. Because each solicitation is so inexpensive, advertisers can afford to be indiscriminate.

[0006] The problem is especially compounded on the Internet. Since sending e-mail is practically free, substantially less than one percent of all contacted parties need respond to pay for the marketing expenses associated with sending an e-mail. There is no need to target the marketing effort to groups that are more likely to be interested in a particular product or service. Consequently, spamming has become a widespread problem. People who place their e-mail information on public directories often find a plethora of unwanted e-mails cluttering their day, as they turn on their computers. Not only is this annoying, but it is a waste of time, and ultimately leads to lower productivity as workers sort through e-mail that have nothing to do with their work. Since many people have a limited amount of memory and space available for e-mail, spam e-mail clutters limited amount of memory available for e-mail.

[0007] It is little wonder why people do not want to have their e-mail address listed so that they do not fall prey to SPAM. The following is a quote from an article in "The Register" of Feb. 2, 2001 by Tim Richardson concerning the problem of spam:

[0008] "Spam costs Net users a whopping E10 billion ($9.33 billion) a year, according to the European Commission. Commenting on the findings of a European study, Internal Market Commissioner Frits Bolkestein said: `The exponential growth of junk e-mail in recent years is a fact of life. Current technology allows a single cyber-marketing company to send half a billion personalized ad mails via the World Wide Web every day. Consumer information gleaned from individual Web transactions/consultations can be sold for large sums of money, and yet many individual subscribers are unaware of the scale and implications of these developments.`"

[0009] The problem is not just limited to e-mail. Unsolicited telephone calls are annoying and often come at inopportune times. Even mailed solicitations take a certain amount of time to sort through before it can be identified and dismissed as junk. As a result, many people make their personal contact information unavailable to the public. In fact, most people do not have their e-mail listed in a directory.

[0010] Accordingly, most directories of personal contact information have enormous gaps in their coverage because listing parties are reluctant to list their personal information. Finding an e-mail address of most people is a near impossibility. As a result of these incomplete on-line directories, people who have lost contact with a particular individual are deprived of the most efficient and inexpensive means of locating them. Querying parties with whom the listing party would like to make contact have no way of making the contact since the contact information is not made generally available in a directory. They cannot find their lost friend's e-mail, telephone number, address and other contact information. Currently, a party with personal information that they are considering listing must make an ugly choice. Once choice is not publicly list their information, which of course prevents desirable querying parties (perhaps a long lost friend) from easily contacting them. The other choice is to publicly list their personal contact information so that they can be reached by those who the listing party would like to be contacted, but pay the price of a steady stream of unwanted solicitous contacts by any number of undesired individuals. The problem, as mentioned earlier, is most severe for e-mail directories where there is virtually no cost associated with the contact effort. Thus, e-mail information is often kept under closer guard than other types of personal information, since it is the most likely to be abused. Ultimately, the cheapest and most effective way of contacting an old friend or acquaintance--mail--is the most likely to be withheld by the listing party because it is most likely to be subject to abuse.

[0011] What is needed is a way to be contacted by people by whom one wants to be contacted, while not being contacted by people sought to be avoided. What is needed is a way to allow listing parties to provide personal information to querying parties with whom the listing party desires to be contacted, while at the same time hiding the information from querying parties whom the listing party does not want to communicate. What is needed is a way to be contacted by that long-lost friend or that interesting fellow you met on an airplane trip and remember his name but lost his phone number, without being barraged by every peddler with a product or service because everyone has access to your personal contact information.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0012] The invention is a method and apparatus for people who would like to list their information in directories (the "listing party") to distribute their personal contact information (such as their personal e-mail address, telephone number, pager number, and fax number) to only those people inquiring about their personal information (the "querying party") by whom the listing party wants to be contacted. The method employs a bridge website as a directory for electronic mail addresses, telephone numbers, pager numbers, fax numbers, street addresses, and any combination thereof. In the first embodiment of the invention, the listing party approves or denies a request for personal contact information after the querying party who is seeking the personal contact information is identified. In a second embodiment of the invention, the listing party may opt to agree to automatic personal information disclosure if the querying party provides personal information about themselves that conforms to certain pre-established parameters set by the listing party. The preferred embodiment of the invention is performed on the Internet. It is foreseeable that the invention may be practiced without the use of the Internet.

[0013] The preferred embodiment of this invention is when both the listing party and the querying party use computers with modems to access the Internet, but this arrangement is not necessary in all embodiments. In the first embodiment of the invention, the querying party sends a querying signal indicating a request for the personal contact information of the listing party. After the listing party receives the request for information and responds, the querying party receives a personal contact information signal, which contains the personal contact information of the listing party. The personal contact information signal only contains the personal contact information that the listing party wanted to be made available to the querying party. The listing party learns of the query by a query notification signal. Upon learning of the query, the listing party then sends a consent/no consent signal indicating what, if any information shall be transmitted to the querying party. It is entirely conceivable that the querying party may generate the querying signal, or may receive the personal contact information signal, using a telephonic peripheral (such as a POTS telephone (Plain Old Telephone Service), cellular telephone, or digital phone, or Internet phone). It is entirely conceivable that the personal contact information signal may be received by using a telephonic peripheral. Likewise, the listing party may receive the query notification signal, or generate the consent/no consent signal, using either a computer or telephonic peripheral, and may send the consent/no consent signal using a computer.

[0014] In the second embodiment of the invention, instead of the listing party actively screening the request for personal contact information, the listing party establishes parameters wherein to furnish information. The querying party is asked to fill out a questionnaire. Based upon the querying party's response to the questionnaire and its correspondence to the established parameters, the personal contact information of the listing party will be distributed in accordance with the desires of the listing party. The listing party first establishes parameters by sending a parameter requirements signal in response to a parameters inquiry signal generated by the apparatus. Having done so, the questionnaire is established. The querying party sends a querying signal to ask for personal contact information of the listing party. The querying party is to then be sent a questionnaire and given information based upon the querying party's responses. This is accomplished by sending a questionnaire signal to the querying party after the querying party sent the querying signal. The querying party then sends a response to the questionnaire in the form of a questionnaire response signal. Personal contact information of the listing party is then sent the querying party by means of a personal contact information signal. The personal contact information contained in the personal contact information signal sent to the querying party is dictated by the query party's response to the questionnaire. It is entirely conceivable that the listing party may receive the parameter inquiry signal or generate the parameter requirements signal using a telephonic peripheral instead of a computer, although computer is preferred. Likewise, it is entirely possible that the querying signal may be generated by the querying part using a telephonic peripheral, the questionnaire signal received by a telephonic peripheral, the questionnaire response signal generated by use of a telephonic peripheral, or the personal contact information signal received by a telephonic peripheral.

[0015] In most cases new listing parties would opt for the first embodiment where they choose to be notified and approve or disapprove information release on a case-by-case basis. Listing parties might then choose to experiment with the questionnaire method of the second embodiment. Using the second embodiment, they will establish screening criteria to which they will screen querying parties. The listing party determines whether or not a querying party falls within the screening criteria by examining his or her response to the questionnaire. As time passes, the listing party will figure out which criteria work best. Put simply, the listing party will over time know which questions best screen people trying to obtain his personal information.

[0016] As the listing party tweaks criteria and the criteria become increasingly fine-tuned, the listing party will reach a point where they seem to have established a good screening criteria. Once optimal screening criteria are established, they will receive very few or no inquiries from parties to who they do not wish to release at least some contact information. At that point the listing party might feel sufficiently secure to opt for the second embodiment where contact information is released automatically if the response to the questionnaire falls into the criteria established for releasing information made by the listing party.

[0017] Using this second embodiment of the invention, however, the listing party may well still have released information to a querying party that he wished he did not, or, alternatively, may have failed to send information to a querying party to whom he rather would have or to whom he would have rather sent more complete information. In the event that information is given out to undesired listing parties, the listing party can resort to the standard blacklisting feature found on many related software applications. Alternatively, in the event that information was not sent out that the listing party would have preferred was, the listing party can send out this information on his own initiative. By following this gradual progression from the first to the second embodiment though, the listing party stands a strong chance of never releasing contact information to a completely foreign party.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0018] FIG. 1(a) is a figure of the website-based personal contact information inquiry system.

[0019] FIG. 1(b) is a figure of the apparatus for storing the listing party's personal contact information wherein the querying signal is sent by the querying party's computer, the personal contact information signal is received by the querying party's computer, the query notification signal is received by the listing party's computer, and the consent/no consent signal is generated by the listing party's computer.

[0020] FIG. 2 is a figure of the website-based personal contact information inquiry signal wherein the personal information is received by the querying party's telephonic peripheral, but the querying signal is still sent by means of a computer; the query notification signal is received by the listing party's computer and the consent/no consent signal is generated by the listing party's computer.

[0021] FIG. 3 is a figure of the website-based personal contact information inquiry signal wherein the querying signal is generated by a querying party's computer, the personal contact information signal is received by the querying party's computer, the query notification signal is received by a telephonic peripheral of the listing party instead of a computer, but the consent/no consent signal is still sent using a computer.

[0022] FIG. 4 is a figure of the website-based personal contact information inquiry signal wherein the querying signal is generated by the querying party's computer, the personal contact information signal is received by the querying party's computer, the query notification signal is received by the listing party using the listing party's computer, and the listing party's telephonic peripheral generates the consent/no consent signal in place of a computer.

[0023] FIG. 5 is a figure of the website-based personal contact information inquiry signal wherein the querying signal is generated by the querying party's computer, the personal contact information signal is received by the querying party's computer, the query notification signal is received by the listing party using a telephonic peripheral instead of a computer, and the listing party's telephonic peripheral also generates the consent/no consent signal in place of a computer.

[0024] FIG. 6 is a figure of the website-based personal contact information inquiry signal wherein the querying signal is generated by the querying party's computer, the personal contact information signal is received by the querying party's telephonic peripheral, the query notification signal is received by the listing party's computer, and the listing party's telephonic peripheral generates the consent/no consent signal in place of a computer.

[0025] FIG. 7 is a figure of the website-based personal contact information inquiry signal wherein the querying signal is generated by the querying party's computer, the personal contact information signal is received by the querying party's telephonic peripheral, the query notification signal is received by the listing party's telephonic peripheral, and the listing party's computer generates the consent/no consent signal.

[0026] FIG. 8 is a figure of the website-based personal contact information inquiry signal wherein the querying signal is generated by the querying party's computer, the personal contact information signal is received by the querying party's telephonic peripheral, the query notification signal is received by the listing party's telephonic peripheral, and the listing party's telephonic peripheral also generates the consent/no consent signal.

[0027] FIG. 9 is a figure of the website-based personal contact information inquiry signal wherein the querying signal is generated by the querying party's telephonic peripheral, the personal contact information signal is received by the querying party's computer, the query notification signal is received by the listing party's computer, and the listing party's computer also generates the consent/no consent signal.

[0028] FIG. 10 is a figure of the website-based personal contact information inquiry signal wherein the querying signal is generated by the querying party's telephonic peripheral, the personal contact information signal is received by the querying party's computer, the query notification signal is received by the listing party's computer, and the listing party's telephonic peripheral generates the consent/no consent signal.

[0029] FIG. 11 is a figure of the website-based personal contact information inquiry signal wherein the querying signal is generated by the querying party's telephonic peripheral, the personal contact information signal is received by the querying party's computer, the query notification signal is received by the listing party's telephonic peripheral, and the listing party's computer generates the consent/no consent signal.

[0030] FIG. 12 is a figure of the website-based personal contact information inquiry signal wherein the querying signal is generated by the querying party's telephonic peripheral, the personal contact information signal is received by the querying party's computer, the query notification signal is received by the listing party's telephonic peripheral, and the listing party's telephonic peripheral also generates the consent/no consent signal.

[0031] FIG. 13 is a figure of the website-based personal contact information inquiry signal wherein the querying signal is generated by the querying party's telephonic peripheral, the personal contact information signal is received by the querying party's telephonic peripheral, the query notification signal is received by the listing party's computer, and the listing party's computer also generates the consent/no consent signal.

[0032] FIG. 14 is a figure of the website-based personal contact information inquiry signal wherein the querying signal is generated by the querying party's telephonic peripheral, the personal contact information signal is received by the querying party's telephonic peripheral, the query notification signal is received by the listing party's computer, and the listing party's telephonic peripheral generates the consent/no consent signal.

[0033] FIG. 15 is a figure of the website-based personal contact information inquiry signal wherein the querying signal is generated by the querying party's telephonic peripheral, the personal contact information signal is received by the querying party's telephonic peripheral, the query notification signal is received by the listing party's telephonic peripheral, and the listing party's telephonic computer generates the consent/no consent signal.

[0034] FIG. 16 is a figure of the website-based personal contact information inquiry signal wherein the querying signal is generated by the querying party's telephonic peripheral, the personal contact information signal is received by the querying party's telephonic peripheral, the query notification signal is received by the listing party's telephonic peripheral, and the listing party's telephonic peripheral also generates the consent/no consent signal.

[0035] FIG. 17 shows the invention placed on the Public Telephone System and not on the Internet.

[0036] FIG. 18 is a second embodiment of the invention wherein personal contact information of the listing party is provided to the querying party if the querying party provides certain personal information that falls within parameters set by the listing party.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS OF THE INVENTION

[0037] The invention herein described in the description and the diagrams is illustrative only of the preferred embodiment of the invention. The claims or their equivalents should not be interpreted to be limited to the preferred embodiments of the invention herein described.

[0038] FIG. 1(a)

[0039] This invention, a 9 web-based personal contact information system, is shown in FIG. 1(a). It is comprised of a method and apparatus for connecting a 10 querying party to a 12 listing party without divulging the personal information of the 12 listing party unless voluntarily revealed by the 12 listing party. FIG. 1(a) shows the most preferred embodiment of the invention. Both the 10 querying party and the 12 listing party are using computers connected to the Internet.

[0040] The method and apparatus employs a 16 bridge website created by a 18 bridge website server which has a 17 personal contact information directory database that stores personal information. The 18 bridge website server is a server that is located on the 20 Internet. By "server" it is meant any computer, sub-component of a computer, or group of computers, or any combination thereof, that possesses the capacity of maintaining a client/server environment on the Internet. Accordingly, the 18 "bridge web-site server" may be comprised of any computer, sub-component of a computer, or group of computers, or any combination thereof, that is available on the Internet.

[0041] The 16 bridge website has a 42 URL (universal resource locator) which is entered by the 10 querying party. The 10 querying party uses the 40 web browser and 41 modem of the 24 querying party's computer, using well-known website access methodologies. The 17 personal contact information directory database stores such information as the 26 e-mail addresses, 28 telephone numbers, 30 fax numbers, 32 pager numbers, and 34 street addresses of the 12 listing party, as well as additional information as determined appropriate by the 12 listing party. The mechanism for storing such information is detailed in FIG. 1(b), which is discussed infra.

[0042] In order to obtain the 12 listing party's personal contact information, the 10 querying party sends a 22 querying-signal from the 24 querying party's computer to the 18 bridge website. A "querying signal" is defined as one or more signals sent in any sequence or simultaneously that embodies both a request for the personal contact information of the 12 listing party and embodies a communication of information about the 10 querying party, regardless of whether the querying signal is received in its original condition as sent by the querying party or is otherwise transformed before it is received by the 18 bridge website server. In the preferred embodiment of the invention, the 22 querying signal follows the TCP/Internet Protocol and the 24 querying party's computer is a personal computer. The 10 querying party uses a 40 web browser and 41 modem which is located on the 24 querying party's computer, and enters the 42 URL of the 16 bridge website located on the 18 bridge website server. By the term "modem," it is meant any device that allows one computer to communicate with a remote computer, whether over telephone lines, a cable or a T1 line. The 18 bridge website server has a 43 registration facility which is defined as a device capable of receiving the 10 querying party's personal information, storing it (at least temporarily but preferably permanently), and transmitting it to the 12 listing party. Web pages capable of receiving personal information (such as name, address, telephone number, e-mail address or credit card) from the person visiting the website are well known in the art and are commonplace. In many instances, the 43 registration facility of the 18 bridge website server will simply store the name of the 10 querying party, but other information may be stored as well, such as the querying party's telephone number, e-mail address, or other contact information so that the 12 listing party may contact them directly. The information to be stored and made available to querying party is entirely up to the 12 listing party.

[0043] The 10 querying party also has the ability to control just what information will or will not be made available. But, as with any relationship in life, it will be up to the 12 listing party to decide whether such information is sufficient and whether to release his or her personal contact information.

[0044] After the 22 querying signal has been received by the 18 bridge website server and the information of the 10 querying party is stored in the 43 registration facility, a 44 query notification signal is sent to the 12 listing party. The 44 query notification signal is comprised of one or more signals sent in any sequence or simultaneously from the 18 bridge website server to the listing party that embodies both a notification that there has been a request for the personal contact information of the 12 listing party and also embodies a communication of identifying information about the querying party, regardless as to whether the 44 querying notification signal is modified or altered along its path from the 18 bridge website server to the 12 listing party. The 46 consent/no consent signal is comprised of one or more signals sent in any sequence or simultaneously from the 12 listing party to the 18 bridge website server that embodies an instruction as to what personal information, if any, is to be sent to the 10 querying party, regardless as to whether the 46 consent/no consent signal is modified or altered along its path from the 12 listing party to the 18 bridge website server. In one preferred embodiment, as shown in FIG. 1(a), the 44 query notification signal is sent to the 13 listing party's computer in the form of e-mail, e-mail with a voice attachment, or a real time Internet telephone call message. The 44 query notification signal may contain a picture (usually of the 10 querying party) as a means of identification or a voice sample. The 44 query notification signal reveals the fact that someone is trying to contact the 12 listing party and provides identifying personal information of the 10 querying party that was stored in the 43 registration facility of the 18 bridge website server.

[0045] After the 12 listing party receives the 44 query notification signal and has been appraised of the personal information of the 10 querying party, the 12 listing party may simply decide to contact the 10 querying party directly and make no further use of the 9 web-based personal contact information system. The 12 listing party may also simply elect to send a message via the 46 consent/no consent signal that there is no consent to disclosure of personal information and politely inform the 10 querying party that their request for the listing party's personal contact information is denied. Of course, the 12 listing party may simply decide to not respond to the query, wherein a 46 consent/no consent is not sent. Through the passage of time, the 10 querying party will simply learn that 12 listing party does not wish to release his or her personal information. This type of approach may be especially appropriate when the party seeking the information is simply an impersonal corporation attempting to compile a SPAM mailing list.

[0046] Alternatively, the 12 listing party may send a 46 consent/no-consent signal to the 18 bridge website server. The 46 consent/no-consent signal directs the 18 bridge website server as to what information in the 17 personal contact information directory database is to be sent to the 10 querying party, if any information is to be sent at all. According to what information is contained in the 46 consent/no-consent signal, the personal contact information of the listing party, such as the 26 e-mail address, the 28 telephone number, 30 fax number, 32 pager, or 34 street address (or any combination thereof) of the 12 listing party is sent from the 17 personal contact information directory database of the 18 bridge website server to the 10 querying party in the form of a 50 personal contact information signal. The 50 personal contact information signal contains the information from the 17 personal contact information directory that the 12 listing party wanted to make available to the 10 querying party.

[0047] In the preferred embodiment of the invention, the 50 personal contact information signal conforms to the TCP/IP protocol and is in the form of e-mail or e-mail with a voice attachment. In another embodiment of the invention, the personal contact information contained in the 50 personal contact information signal is in the form of analog telephone call to a pager with a screen display, or is in the form of a voice telephone call using voice/character recognition technology, as shown in FIG. 2 which will be further explained infra. Once the 10 querying party has the personal contact information of the 12 listing party, a personal contact has been made possible without having to make this personal information publicly available without screening.

[0048] The 18 bridge website server has an attempt counter. An attempt counter is defined as any device capable of counting the number of attempts to obtain personal contact information. The 12 listing party may, but need not, program the 18 bridge website server to stop generating 44 query notification signals for 24 querying party's that have altogether been denied personal contact information or who have not received the type of personal contact information requested. As seen in FIG. 1(b), the 12 listing party simply sends a 102 maximum attempts signal to the 18 bridge website server. Once the 10 querying party exceeds the maximum number of permitted attempts at information, he or she will be "shutoff" meaning that the 12 listing party will receive no more 44 query notification signals concerning the shutoff 10 querying party. This prevents the 12 listing party from receiving repeated nettlesome attempts at information.

[0049] Variations

[0050] As will be explained in some of the examples in the following figures the 22 querying signal, telephonic peripherals over the telephone system may take the place of computers on the 10 Internet. The 22 querying signal may be sent by a telephonic peripheral by the 10 querying party, the 50 personal contact information signal may be received by a telephonic peripheral of the 10 querying party, the 44 query notification received by the 12 listing party may be received by a telephonic peripheral, and the 46 consent/no consent signal may be sent by a telephonic peripheral by a listing party. The term "telephonic peripheral," as used in the specifications and claims means any telephone end-user device--such as, but not limited to, a POTS telephone (Plain Old Telephone Service), cellular telephone, digital phones, faxes, pagers--that do not operate in the packet-switching environment of the Internet, but are nonetheless interconnected and make use of the public telephone system as a means of communication. A "telephonic peripheral" may nonetheless interact with the Internet environment, such as a POTs telephone receiving an Internet telephone call. Thus, as to this specification, the universe of what exists on the public telephone lines is divided into either devices on the Internet (which are in a packet-switching environment) and those that are not a part of the Internet, and form a part of the telephone system. An end-user device that is outside of the packet-switching environment of the Internet, even if the information being received was transported over the Internet, is a telephonic peripheral. The combination of telephonic peripherals greatly enhances the versatility of the system.

[0051] For instance, as in FIG. 8, the querying party (Sam) may request an e-mail address of a long friend (Tom). The system sends a 44 query notification signal to the listing party's cellular telephone phone equipped with a screen display (the 56 telephonic peripheral) prompting the 12 listing party (Tom) that he has received a query for personal information and further providing identifying information about the caller. The message may say, ("Sam Smith from Springfield High School requests your personal information. Please hit 1 if you wish to provide him with your cellular telephone number by telephone.") Using his cellular phone, the 12 listing party sends a 46 consent/no consent signal (by hitting 1 on his cellular phone) to send his telephone number. The 18 bridge website server has a stored message which is sent by means of a 50 personal contact information signal (an Internet phone call or a phone call) that is sent to the 10 querying party. The 10 querying party picks up the phone, hears a message "Tom can be reached at his cell phone at 737-459-9293," records the number, and immediately calls Tom's cellular phone and reaches him on the golf course. Or, as in FIG. 5, while Tom is on the golf course, after receiving the phone call notifying him that Sam seeks his personal contact information, may hear a message "Please hit 2 if you wish to e-mail Sam Smith your cellular telephone number." Then, from the golf course, Tom hits 2, and the 18 bridge website server sends Sam an e-mail to Sam's computer containing his cellular telephone number. Having Tom's cellular number, Sam calls up his long lost friend Tom at the golf course.

[0052] The technology for taking information sent via telephonic devices to bridge servers on the Internet are well known and widely available to the public. Commonly known examples are many websites that receive fax information sent over the telephone lines, or services that provide Internet call-waiting while one is using the telephone line for Internet purposes. Likewise, taking information available on a bridge server on the Internet and converting it so that it is received in the non-Internet environment is also well known, such as the common Internet telephone. An Internet telephone call is a telephone call from a computer equipped with speakers and microphone over the Internet to a server located in the recipient's area, which is then converted into an analog telephone call so that the recipient receives a regular telephone call. The technology from going from the telephonic environment to the Internet and back again is well known. The ingeniousness of this invention is harnessing these technologies and creating a method creating a directory of personal contact information available to all, but wherein the listing party may be the gatekeeper.

[0053] FIG. 1(b)

[0054] FIG. 1(a) shows the most preferred embodiment of the invention. Both the 10 querying party and the 12 listing party are using computers connected to the Internet. FIG. 1(b) shows how the 12 listing party uses their 13 computer equipped with a 52 web browser and 53 modem and which is connected to the Internet 20 to store the personal information they want made available to others. Once the 16 bridge website (which is generated by the 18 bridge website server) is accessed by the 12 listing party (by use of their 13 computer), upon the 12 listing party's hitting an icon of the 16 bridge website, the 18 bridge website server generates a 58 database questionnaire signal which is sent to the 13 computer of the 12 listing party. At that point, the 12 listing party will be prompted by the 58 database questionnaire signal as to the particular information he would like to make available by the 18 Bridge Website Server. By means of the 58 database questionnaire signal, the 12 listing party will be asked their 26 e-mail address, 28 telephone number, 30 fax number, 32 pager number, and 34 street address that they would like listed. In response to the 58 database inquiry signal, the 12 listing party supplies this information and it is sent via a 60 personal information storage signal from the 13 listing party's computer to the 18 bridge website server, where it is stored (and thereby "listed") in the 17 personal contact information directory database. The 12 listing party may also be asked to provide additional information as determined appropriate by the 12 listing party. For instance, the 12 listing party may decide to make available the hours that they can be located at their residence, or they may decide to provide their business telephone number, or the particular telephone number at which they can be located at during a certain period of time. They may even decide to leave messages. The type of personal information that may be left is endless. For that matter the listing party may opt to include a repository of miscellaneous information that is not necessarily contact information such as credit card numbers and passwords. This miscellany could include any information at all that the listing party might have reason to selectively share with another party. The personal contact information remains in the 17 personal contact information database until the 12 listing party directs it to be sent to the 10 querying party (not shown in FIG. 1(b)).

[0055] FIG. 2

[0056] FIG. 2 shows another embodiment of the 9 web-based personal contact information system. Note that it is essentially identical to FIG. 1(a) with the difference being in how the 10 querying party receives the personal contact information of the 12 listing party. Instead of the 50 personal contact information signal being received by the 24 querying party's computer as shown in FIG. 1(a), the 50 personal contact information signal (which contains the personal contact information of the listing party) is sent to a 54 telephonic peripheral(s) of the querying party which may be a telephone, a telephone with a screen display, a pager or any other telephonic device. Where the information is not displayed on a screen, well-known character recognition software is utilized, which is capable of translating a word in electric format to voice.

[0057] FIG. 3

[0058] FIG. 3 shows another embodiment of the 9 web-based personal contact information system. FIG. 3 is identical to FIG. 1(a) with the exception that the 44 query notification signal (which notifies the listing party that someone has inquired about their personal information) is received by a 56 telephonic peripheral of the listing party such as a telephone, pager with screen display, or telephone with screen display, as opposed to the 13 listing party's computer as in FIG. 1. The 44 query notification signal is composed in whole or part of a telephone call simply informing the 12 listing party that there has been a query, or may read the information stored in the registration facility using character recognition software so as to apprise the 12 listing party as to the nature or identity of the 10 querying party. The telephone call may either be to a POTS (plain old telephone service) telephone, any form of wireless phone including digital, a pager, or any other peripheral device capable of receiving a continuous analog telephone signal. In the embodiment where the 44 query notification signal is in the form of a telephone, the telephone call would reveal the personal information of the 10 querying party. If the telephone call is to a telephone such as a POTS telephone, or other form of wireless phone, the 18 bridge website server would have character/voice recognition software so that the personal information of the 10 querying party may be read to the 12 listing party. If the telephone call is to a pager with a screen display, the personal information of the 10 querying party may be displayed on the screen of the pager. Once notified, the 12 listing party uses his or her 13 computer and sends a 46 consent/no consent signal so as to dictate what, if any, of their personal information will be sent, as previously described in FIG. 1(a).

[0059] FIG. 4

[0060] In FIG. 4, the 22 query signal is sent by the 24 querying party's computer, and the 50 personal contact information signal is received by the 24 querying party's computer. The 44 query notification signal is received by the 13 listing party's computer. The consent/no consent signal is sent by the 56 listing party's telephonic peripheral

[0061] FIG. 5

[0062] In FIG. 5, the 56 listing party's telephonic peripheral generates the 46 consent/no consent signal itself and receives the 44 query notification signal. Thus, the 12 listing party may receive a 44 query notification signal to their cellular telephone with a screen display that serves as a 56 telephonic peripheral, and then sends a 46 consent/no consent signal in the form of a DTMF signal (Touch Tone TM) that is recognized by the 18 bridge website server.

[0063] FIG. 6

[0064] FIG. 6 is an embodiment where the 22 querying signal is sent using the 24 querying party's computer over the 10 Internet, the 50 personal contact information signal is received by the 54 querying party's telephonic peripheral, the 44 query notification signal is received by the 13 listing party's computer over the Internet 10, and the 46 consent/no consent signal is sent by the 56 listing party's telephonic peripheral.

[0065] FIG. 7

[0066] FIG. 7 is an embodiment where the 22 querying signal is sent using the 24 querying party's computer over the 10 Internet, the 50 personal contact information signal is received by the 54 querying party's telephonic peripheral, the 44 query notification signal is received by the 56 listing party's telephonic peripheral, and the 46 consent/no consent signal is sent by the 13 listing party's computer.

[0067] FIG. 8

[0068] FIG. 8 is an embodiment where the 22 querying signal is sent using the 24 querying party's computer over the 10 Internet, the 50 personal contact information signal is received by the 54 querying party's telephonic peripheral, the 44 query notification signal is received by the 56 listing party's telephonic peripheral, and the 46 consent/no consent signal is sent by the 56 listing party's telephonic peripheral.

[0069] FIG. 9

[0070] FIG. 9 is substantially similar to FIG. 1(a), with the exception that the querying signal is generated by the 54 querying party's telephonic peripheral. In such a format, such as calling a 411 directory, the system may ask for the querying party's e-mail address using voice recognition software, and send the personal contact information to the 24 querying party's computer. The 50 personal contact information signal is received by the 24 querying party's computer. The 44 query notification signal is received by the 13 listing party's computer, and the 46 consent/no consent signal is generated by the 13 listing party's computer.

[0071] FIG. 10

[0072] FIG. 10 is substantially similar to FIG. 9, except that the 46 consent/no consent signal is generated by the 56 listing party's telephonic peripheral. The querying signal is generated by the 54 querying party's telephonic peripheral. The 50 personal contact information signal is received by the 24 querying party's computer. The 44 query notification signal is received by the 13 listing party's computer. Thus, the signal's being generated by the 10 querying party and the 12 listing party are generated by telephonic peripherals, whereas the information received is done so by a computer over the 10 Internet.

[0073] FIG. 11

[0074] In FIG. 11, the 22 querying signal is generated by the 54 querying party's telephonic peripheral. The 50 personal contact information signal is received by the 24 querying party's computer. The 44 query notification signal is received by the 56 listing party's telephonic peripheral. The 46 consent/no consent signal is generated by the 13 listing party's computer.

[0075] FIG. 12

[0076] In FIG. 12, the 22 querying signal is generated by the 54 querying party's telephonic peripheral. The 50 personal contact information signal is received by the 24 querying party's computer. The 44 query notification signal is received by the 56 listing party's telephonic peripheral. The 46 consent/no consent signal is generated by the 56 listing party's telephonic peripheral.

[0077] FIG. 13

[0078] In FIG. 13, the 22 querying signal is generated by the 54 querying party's telephonic peripheral. The 50 personal contact information signal is received by the 54 querying party's telephonic peripheral. The 44 query notification signal is received by the 13 listing party's computer. The 46 consent/no consent signal is generated by the 13 listing party's computer.

[0079] FIG. 14

[0080] In FIG. 14, the 22 querying signal is generated by the 54 querying party's telephonic peripheral. The 50 personal contact information signal is received by the 54 querying party's telephonic peripheral. The 44 query notification signal is received by the 13 listing party's computer. The 46 consent/no consent signal is generated by the 56 listing party's telephonic peripheral.

[0081] FIG. 15

[0082] In FIG. 15, the 22 querying signal is generated by the 54 querying party's telephonic peripheral. The 50 personal contact information signal is received by the 54 querying party's telephonic peripheral. The 44 query notification signal is received by the 56 listing party's telephonic peripheral. The 46 consent/no consent signal is generated by the 13 listing party's computer.

[0083] FIG. 16

[0084] In FIG. 16, the 22 querying signal is generated by the 54 querying party's telephonic peripheral. The 50 personal contact information signal is received by the 54 querying party's telephonic peripheral. The 44 query notification signal is received by the 56 listing party's telephonic peripheral. The 46 consent/no consent signal is generated by the 56 listing party's telephonic peripheral.

[0085] FIG. 17

[0086] FIG. 17 shows the invention not on the Internet. Neither the 22 querying signal, the 50 personal contact information signal, the 44 query notification signal, or the 46 consent/no consent signal is transmitted over the 10 Internet. The 18 bridge website server located on the Internet in the previous figures may be replaced by a 104 server located on the telephone system. Information could be sent by means of voice, voice coupled with voice to character recognition, screen displays, character to voice recognition, or a simply characters. Character to voice and voice to character recognition technology is well known and can easily be implemented.

[0087] FIG. 18

[0088] In another embodiment of the invention as shown in FIG. 4, it is not necessary to contact the 12 listing party directly after the 10 querying party queries for the personal information of the 12 listing party. Instead, the 10 querying party is given or denied access to the personal information depending on answers to questions (or a single question) posited to him or her by the 18 bridge website server. The 10 querying party is asked for personal information that was determined important by the 12 listing party. If the personal information provided by the 10 querying party falls within certain parameters established by the 12 listing party in advance, the 18 bridge website server provides the 10 querying party with pre-specified information contained within the 17 personal contact information data base. This information is limited to what the 12 listing party intended the 10 querying party to have, based upon their response to a 72 questionnaire stored on the 18 the bridge website server. The 72 questionnaire is comprised of one or more questions. This embodiment completely disallows unapproved contact from the querying party.

[0089] For instance, the 12 listing party may allow all 10 querying parties that went to the same high school access to their phone number, e-mail, and street address, but only provide to people who went to the same college their phone number. The combinations of personal information to be provided to the 10 querying party are virtually endless. The 12 listing party also has the option of sending various messages in conjunction with or to the exclusion of providing personal contact information. Such a message may be "I will be contacting you later" or "I will be at Steve's house from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m."

[0090] To set up the system, a 62 parameter inquiry signal is sent from the 18 bridge website server to the 13 listing party's computer asking the 12 listing party as to what parameters are required to release certain personal contact information stored in the 17 personal contact information database to the 10 querying party. The parameter inquiry signal 62 is generated after the 12 listing party enters the 42 URL of the 18 bridge website server, accesses the 16 bridge website generated by the 18 bridge website server, and hits an icon (not shown) which is to be hit when the 12 listing party would like to set up the parameters for releasing his personal information. After hitting the icon, the 18 bridge website server sends the parameter inquiry signal, which will appear as a questionnaire on the screen of the 13 listing party's computer. The technology for providing an on-line questionnaire is well known in the art. The 12 listing party will indicate which personal contact information stored in the 17 personal contact information database is to made available to the 10 querying party based upon the querying party's response to the 72 questionnaire.

[0091] The 12 listing party sends a 64 parameter requirements signal to the 18 bridge website server using their 13 computer equipped with a 52 Web browser and a 53 modem. The 64 parameter requirements signal establishes the parameters wherein certain, if any, personal information contained in the 17 personal contact information directory database will be sent to the 10 querying party. The 64 parameter requirements signal generated by the 12 listing party may be comprised of one or more signals sent in any sequence or simultaneously to the 18 bridge website server that embodies the established parameters wherein certain, if any, personal contact information contained in the 17 personal contact information directory database of the 18 bridge website server will be sent to the 24 querying party, regardless as to whether the 64 parameter requirements signal is modified or altered along its path to the 18 bridge website server from the listing party.

[0092] The 12 listing party establishes parameters for being contacted, such as name, age, demographic profile, address (be it street address, zip code, or geographical area), educational history, present school, employment, employment history, club memberships, interest, religion, parish affiliations, gender, family relations, passwords, physical appearance characteristics, or any systematic weighted combination thereof. In the preferred embodiment, these criteria are stored in electronic format on the 18 bridge website server in a 70 contact parameters database, which stores the parameters established by the 12 listing party for releasing personal information stored in the 17 personal contact information directory database.

[0093] After the system is set up, when the 10 querying party wants to obtain the personal information of the 12 listing party, as before, they access the 18 bridge website server using a 24 computer equipped with a 40 web browser and 41 modem. The 10 querying party enters the 42 URL of the 16 bridge website into the 40 web browser software to access the 16 bridge website. Unlike sending a 22 querying signal that embodies both a request for personal contact information of the listing party and identifying information of the 10 querying party, a 90 request for information signal is sent. The 90 request for information signal, unlike the 22 querying signal in the previous embodiment, may consist solely of a request for the personal information of the 12 listing party. The information about the 10 querying party will be procured by means of a questionnaire. Instead of 12 listing party sending a consent/no consent signal after reviewing the identity of the listing party, just what information will be sent to the 10 querying party will be determined automatically by the querying party's response to the 72 questionnaire, and further involvement by the 12 listing party is not necessary. The 90 request for information signal is comprised of one or more signals sent in any sequence or simultaneously from the querying party that embodies a request for the personal contact information of the listing party, regardless as to whether the querying signal is modified or altered along its path from the querying party to the bridge website server

[0094] Unlike the other embodiment shown in FIG. 1 wherein the 12 listing party is contacted after the 10 querying party requests the 12 listing party's personal contact information, a 72 questionnaire for the querying party is generated by the 18 bridge website server. This obviates the necessity for any further involvement by the 12 listing party, though a courtesy 44 query notification signal (not show in FIG. 4, but shown in FIG. 1) may be sent to the 12 listing party so that he or she can monitor requests for personal information. The 72 questionnaire for the querying party is sent via a 66 questionnaire signal for the querying party, which is sent to the 24 querying party's computer from the 18 bridge website server. The 18 bridge website server stores the 72 questionnaire, ready for 90 request for information signal sent by a 10 querying party. The 66 questionnaire signal for the query party is comprised of one or more signals sent in any sequence or simultaneously from the bridge website server to the 10 querying party that embodies a questionnaire for the 20 querying party, regardless as to whether the 66 questionnaire signal for the querying party is modified or altered along its path to the 24 querying party.

[0095] Once the 10 querying party receives the 72 questionnaire that was sent in the form of a 66 questionnaire signal, the 10 querying party electronically replies to the questionnaire, answers some or all of its questions, and generate a 68 questionnaire response signal which is transmitted to the 18 bridge website server. When the 18 bridge website server receives the 68 questionnaire response signal from the querying party it compares the information provided by the responses to the 72 questionnaire to the parameters for releasing personal contact information stored in the 70 contact parameters database. Based on the parameters (or lack of parameters) provided by the 10 querying party in the form of a 68 questionnaire response signal, the 18 bridge website server then either (1) generates a 50 personal contact information signal to the querying party which provides them with the personal information and/or messages the 12 listing party determined was appropriate based on the parameters (or lack of parameters) received, or (2) provides no further information in response to the parameters (or lack of parameters) received, or (3) generates a second 66 questionnaire signal for the querying party asking for additional information, whereupon the 10 querying party generates a second 68 questionnaire response signal which is again received by the 18 bridge website server, and the process of the comparison of the contact parameters within the 70 contact parameters database begins again and responds in the way just described.

[0096] The 12 listing party may establish any number of responses based upon the information provided by the 10 querying party. Based upon the information provided by the 10 querying party which is in the form of response to a questionnaire:

[0097] (1) the 12 listing party may approve compete disclosure of their personal contact information as stored in the 17 personal contact information directory database of the 18 bridge website server;

[0098] (2) the 12 listing party may specify a partial disclosure of their contact information;

[0099] (3) the 12 listing party may deny any disclosure but notify the 10 querying party that they will contact the 10 querying party directly;

[0100] (4) the 12 listing party may deny any disclosure of personal information and request that the 18 bridge website server solicit more complete identification information from the 10 querying party by sending another 66 questionnaire signal for the querying party which will prompt the 10 querying party for more information;

[0101] (5) the 12 listing party may deny any disclosure but send a message to the 10 querying party;

[0102] (6) the 12 listing party may deny any disclosure and not respond in any way to the 10 querying party; or,

[0103] (7) if the 9 web-based personal contact information system is also equipped with a 44 query notification signal as shown in FIG. 1(a), the 12 listing party may arrange that the 18 web bridge server not forward any further 44 query notification signals from that same 10 querying party ever or for a specified time period.

[0104] The 9 web-based personal contact information system allows the listing party to manually screens unwanted commercial solicitations while permitting selective address disclosure to desired business and personal contacts. Alternatively, the 12 listing party may opt to agree to automatic address disclosure if the 10 querying party knows a predetermined specific piece or pieces of personal information about them.

[0105] A 44 query notification signal as shown in FIG. 1(a) (and not shown in FIG. 18) may be added as a supplemental feature so that the 12 listing party may be informed of the identity of the 10 querying party that is trying to obtain their personal contact information. The 44 query notification signal may also simply notify the 12 listing party that there has been an attempt to obtain his or her personal contact information.

[0106] The Claims

[0107] In the following claims "the listing party" and "the querying party" are not claimed as elements of the claims. Rather they are included as limitations of signals to indicate the source of generation or the termination point of any given signal. It is the signal being generated or received, and not the listing or querying party generating or receiving the signal that is claimed. Likewise, the "listing party's computer" or the "querying party's computer" is not being claimed in any of the following claims. It is the signal sent to or received by the listing party's computer or the querying party's computer that is claimed, not the computers themselves. As to claims that recited a signal being received by a given computer, a signal that is not received by said given component falls outside the scope of the claim. The computer itself however does not form an element of the claim. Rather, receipt or generation of the signal by a computer is meant to be a limitation on the element of that particular signal. In claims where signals are received or generated by computers having web browsers and modems, it is only the signal the signal that is claimed, and not the computer having a web browser and modem.

[0108] Thus, as to a "querying signal generated by a querying party," it is the querying signal itself and not the querying party that is claimed. The "querying party" is recited to indicate the source of the signal. The limitation "generated by a querying party" serves to show that the element of a "querying signal" is limited to those querying signals that are in some way generated by a querying party. A "querying signal" not in some way generated by a querying party would fall outside the scope of the claim.

[0109] Also, as to the term "a query notification signal that notifies the listing party," the query notification is claimed but not the listing party. The "listing party" is present in the claim language to state where the query notification signal is directed. The limitation of "that notifies the listing party" is included to show that only those query notification signals capable of notifying the listing party fall within the scope of the claim language. However, the "listing party" is not claimed as an element itself.

[0110] Likewise, as to "a personal contact information signal generated by the bridge website server sent to the querying party," the "personal contact information signal generated by the bridge website" is claimed, not the querying party. However, "a personal contact information signal generated by the bridge website server" that is not somehow directly or indirectly sent to the querying party would not fall within the scope of the claims.

[0111] Likewise, as to the "consent/no consent signal from the listing party" the purpose of the recitation of the "listing party" is to indicate the source of the consent/no consent signal, not to claim the listing party themselves.

[0112] Likewise, when it is said that "the querying signal is generated by a querying party's computer" it is meant that the source of the querying signal is the querying party's computer, and querying signal from the querying party's computer is claimed, not the querying party's computer itself. In other words, while the signal is limited to signals from a particular source (the querying party's computer), it is the signal from a particular source that is claimed, not the source itself. (This is analogous to saying that water from the Jordon River must be used, but that the Jordon River is not itself claimed.) When it is said "the querying signal is generated by the querying party's telephonic peripheral," the querying party's telephonic peripheral itself is not claimed. However, the querying signal must come from the querying party's telephonic peripheral to fall with the scope of the claims. Similarly, statements that the consent/no consent signal are generated by a computer of the listing party, or that the consent/no consent signal is generated by a telephonic peripheral of the listing party, is not to claim the computer or the telephonic peripheral itself.

[0113] The same goes to statements as to destination. When it is said that "the personal contact information signal is received by the querying party's computer," the querying party's computer only indicates the destination of the signal, and is not claimed itself. Thus, personal contact information signal that are not to be received by the querying party would fall outside the literal scope of the claim. However, the querying party's computer is never claimed. Likewise, when it is said "the personal contact information signal is received by the querying party's telephonic peripheral," the telephonic peripheral is not claimed per se, rather, it only serves to indicate the destination of the personal contact information signal. (This is analogous to saying that a river must be used that flows into the Mississippi River. While the Mississippi River limits the number of rivers that may be used--only rivers that flow in the Mississippi may be used--the Mississippi itself is not claimed.) Thus, language in the claims that "the query notification signal is received by the listing party's telephonic peripheral" or that "the query notification signal is received by the listing party's computer" only serve to show the destination of the query notification signal-the listing party's computer or the listing party's telephonic peripheral are not being claimed.

[0114] The term "computer" used in the claims means any electrical or electronic device or combination of electrical or electronic devices that receives, processes, and presents data.

[0115] The term "identifying picture of the querying party" as used in the claims refers to the picture of the querying party, and not the querying party him/herself.

[0116] The term "telephonic peripheral," as used in the claims means any analog or digital telephone end-user device--such as, but not limited to, a POTS telephone (Plain Old Telephone Service), cellular telephone, digital phones, faxes, pagers--that do not operate in the packet-switching environment of the Internet, but are nonetheless interconnected and make use of the public telephone system as a means of communication. A "telephonic peripheral" may nonetheless interact with the Internet environment, such as a POTs telephone receiving an Internet telephone call.

[0117] The term "comprising" in the following claims means to be made up of the recited elements and limitations and is intended to read-on devices or methods that contain all the elements and limitations, regardless as to whether the device or method contains additional elements or limitations not specifically claimed. Except for claims 129 and 130, none of the following claims invokes paragraph 6 of 35 U.S.C. .sctn.112 so as to be interpreted as being in means-plus-function or step-plus-function format. Any preamble that does not contain the word "improvement" is not intended to be in Jepson format and does not form a limitation of the claim itself.

[0118] Preambles containing the word "improvement" are intended to be Jepson claims and the language of the preamble forms part of the claims. As to "An improved method of screening an electronic or telephonic database of personal contact information of a listing party, the improvement comprising," the personal contact information of the listing party forms the limitations of the claim, not the listing party him/herself. The listing party is not being claimed, just his or her personal contact information in an electronic or telephonic database.

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