A burner phone, for those who haven’t lived an illicit life of crime (or watched Breaking Bad and The Wire), is a cheap, prepaid cellphone that can be quickly and easily disposed of if law enforcement catches wind of what you (or Walter White and Stringer Bell) are up to.
So why does Joshua Browder, the CEO of legal tech firm DoNotPay and, presumably, all-around law-abiding citizen, want to give out “unlimited burner phone numbers?” The answer, it turns out, has to do with subscriptions, dating apps, and other services that demand your phone number.
“It’s not a secret that a lot of companies sell your data, and can find out Social Security numbers using just a phone number,” Browder told Digital Trends. “Whenever you sign up for a subscription or give a company your phone number, you always run the risk of having that information exposed. I still get daily marketing emails and spam texts from supplement companies that I’ve never signed up for, and it’s hard to fix the issue because I don’t want to change my number. By using burner numbers, I can sign up for things online without having to worry about my phone number being leaked.”
Browder’s company, DoNotPay, has steadily been working its way through a laundry list of problems faced by users everywhere by throwing the full weight of the (robot-powered) law at them. The company started out fighting parking tickets using automation (hence its name), then expanded to everything from scanning through emails to find moneysaving loopholes to assisting with filing for unemployment benefits to guaranteeing you the absolute cheapest flights. Now, it’s helping with this phone number issue, which could be great news for those who value their privacy.
It works by allowing you to generate a temporary phone number, which can be used to bypass verifications that require phone authentication. The numbers are intended for one-time use and are deactivated after a 10-minute period. By using these burner numbers, users don’t have to give away their personal phone number, ekinminating worry about being spammed with marketing messages.
“Burner Phone has been on our product list for a long time,” Browder said. “But with everyone quarantining and spending more time on apps and online services, we noticed a huge surge in text spam and privacy concerns. I personally started apartment hunting last month, signed up for a few tours, and have been getting nonstop spam texts ever since. A lot of my friends also keep getting texts from mortgage refinance companies, canceled subscriptions, and fitness programs they regret signing up for. I think that’s what really pushed us to realize, ‘OK, we really can’t handle this spam any more. Now is the time to get this product out.’”
The feature is available as part of a $3 monthly subscription to DoNotPay.
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