Burner, a Los Angeles based startup offers a unique service that allows you to create multiple ‘disposable’ phone numbers that can remain active for an indeterminate length of time. The service is currently available on iPhone, with an Android counterpart on it’s way. When you’re done with them, or the person you gave it to, they can then be ‘burned’ without having to change your actual phone number. The opportunities are endless, people you meet in bars, salesmen, Radio Shack (ha, just kidding). But seriously, beyond the typical uses you might associate with a ‘burn phone’, the $1.99 iPhone App made by Ad Hoc Labs could prove useful for all sorts of applications. Imagine not having to use your number on that freaky Craigslist ad you just created? Or on the completely embarrassing Ebay auction you have going?
According to a study posted on the Burner blog carried out by gli.ph, most Craigslist users use their personal cell phones when communicating with sellers. This is a market ripe for this type of app, and that is just one. What about Ebay, Etsy, Facebook even could all be places where a disposable phone number could come in handy.
In an article on Ars Technica, Greg Cohen, co-founder and CEO of Ad Hoc Labs who developed the Burn app said, “There is a broader thesis that we have around identity and privacy…We definitely think that communications, and telephony specifically, have been left behind by the wave of social innovation that’s been happening. The network should be smarter, it should be more socially aware and more privacy-aware.” Some other uses the article points out are valid and worth mentioning as well. For instance, a publicist using a number for a limited time while pushing a launch or time sensitive local event. Political campaigns can use temporary phone numbers to set up call banks that only operate during active campaigns.
The Ars Technica article does a great job of explaining exactly how private, or technically traceable the service is, but the conclusion seems to be that Burner is a great start. Even Cohen himself stated, “it’s not an end-to-end encrypted way to make phone calls.” With that said, for the casual user who wishes to use disposable numbers to put an extra layer of protection and distance between themselves and say Ebay buyers, or Craigslist users this might be the perfect solution.