Protecting your privacy online is one thing, but flying under the radar in real life -- that presents a whole new set of challenges. Burner, an iOS app which allows users to spontaneously create disposable phone numbers, promises to give every day citizens yet another tool in the fight against telemarketers, in-laws and all-around creepy people.
In order to use Burner, users need only to download the app to their iPhone, run it, create a new number and voila -- outgoing and incoming calls are instantly tied to your cell phone under the guise of your new, throw-away phone number. Users can buy additional numbers or destroy the ones they already have, purchase additional time and even specify how long those numbers should remain active. When numbers expire or are destroyed, unsuspecting callers will receive a generic "no longer in service" message.
While the benefits of having a separate, less-permanent telephone number for fleeting scenarios like posting a Craigslist ad are obvious, so are its less virtuous uses. Such capabilities have existed for a long time, but Burner puts it in the hands of your average, iPhone-toting citizen. It's easy to imagine these numbers being casually used for prank calls, dishonest business transactions and scandalous dating practices.
Burner's underpinnings actually sound quite a bit like Google Voice -- it's just easier to get additional numbers. Much like Google Voice, Burner is not a VOIP service. Instead, Burner forwards incoming calls to your real phone number (and voicemail, if you wish) while masquerading outgoing calls as your anonymous number. Essentially, there's no way for callers (or recipients) to know you are using a phone number from Burner. Also similar to Google Voice is Burner's omission of support for MMS; however, SMS is not a problem.
While Burner numbers aren't gratis, the app does come bundled with one free disposable number, up to 20 minutes of talk time or 60 SMS messages. This starter number expires after 7 days, regardless of use.