Aug 082012
 August 8, 2012  Posted by  Business, Misc

Meghan Kelly reports on disposable mobile phone number app that launched today:

Burner launched today, an app that gives you one-off numbers that go dark after you’re done using them. But what happens when those numbers are used by criminals? The privacy-focused company says it is ready to deal with illicit behavior, and will comply with U.S. court orders.

“Burner is a very focused product around anonymity and privacy,” said Burner chief executive Greg Cohn in an interview with VentureBeat. “Part of the reason we’re doing this company is because we’re privacy advocates.”

Burner lets you buy a number to use for a certain amount of time before it is “burned” or goes inactive. Think of Craigslist transactions. You don’t want that guy who tried to sell you a crappy TV to have your real number sitting around. A Burner number allows you to cut off ties from that person quickly, and keeps you identifying information out of their hands.

Read more on VentureBeat.

I checked out the app’s privacy policy and noted this section:

Our Deletion of Your Personal Data and other information:

One of the features of the Services allows you to “burn”, or delete, individual phone numbers from your phone at any time, as well as automatically upon the expiry of a number that you elect not to renew. If you delete a number via this feature, we delete all of its history and message content from the application on your phone and from our primary working server. Backup copies of this data are not immediately deleted, however, and some aspects of user history are maintained for longer periods of time so that we can reconcile our records and manage our business. Please be advised that we have no control over data that may be captured by third parties through your use of the Services, including but not limited to your carrier, internet service provider, Apple, and third-party vendors we may rely on to perform the services, except that we will not disclose Personal Data to third parties other than as permitted in this Privacy Policy.

If you would like to delete your entire account history, please contact us via email at [email protected]

It would be helpful if that statement were more specific about for how long user data are retained following non-renewal or deletion, and what types of user data are retained for them to “reconcile their records” or manage their business.

Depending on your motives for using a disposable number, this might be a useful app, but if you’re doing anything illegal or worried about repressive regimes, it will probably not afford you the protection you might want.

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