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to be fair, I don't think the parent comment was trying to moralize anything. I think it is a legitimate question to ask about their policy regarding handing info over to law enforcement and what not. A question worthy of an answer.

It is certainly a fair question, one that deserves a clear answer. Our first principle in thinking about privacy is to be clear to our users in what we are and are not doing with their information.

We designed Burner explicitly and thoughtfully around user-to-user privacy and anonymity. Burner enables users to communicate by voice and text without exchanging their "real" (ie permanent, or even semi-permanent a la Google Voice) numbers, while still using the familiar form factors of phone calls and SMS, and without requiring their counterparties to download apps or join a network.

Burner can be used for anything from dating and craigslist transactions to posting publicly on twitter, to pure entertainment and other things we haven't thought of yet.

The way Burner works, very explicitly, is as a bridge between your phone and others. In other words, calls run over your mobile carrier and your counterparty's carrier, via a bridge that we manage, so that your counterparty doesn't see your callerID endpoint. SMS messages are slightly different technically, but effectively similar. Presuming your counterparty is not on Burner, on their end it's just like a regular phone call or SMS -- ie on their mobile or wireline carrier, on their phone hardware, etc.

It should be obvious given the above that we have no control over these 3rd-party carriers, and we certainly aren't in a position to direct their policies and procedures. We also work with 3rd parties like Twilio for other parts of the number issuance and telelphony process, rackspace for hosting, and so on. It should also be obvious that we have no control over hardware, software, or 3rd-party apps (or malware) on your counterparties' phones.

Given all of the above, Burner was explicitly not designed as a product that's for or meant to be marketed for encrypted or otherwise absolute, leakproof anonymous communication channels. (There are other services available for this, like Tor and Silentcircle, and many very legitimate uses for them, as I'm sure many HN members know.)

We've tried to be thoughtful and clear in our communications, terms of service, and privacy policies about our service, both in terms of what we don't say, and what we do say (various specific uses, for example, are very explicitly against our TOS). We would also be happy post more clearly about our processes (at least to the degree we can), if that would help users make more informed decisions about whether to use Burner.

We are a U.S. corporation operating in the U.S -- in case it's not obvious, we are obliged to and intend to comply with U.S. laws and valid court orders that apply to us. That said, as a company value and personally, we strongly respect the principles of free speech and have lots of concerns about the current state of affairs with respect to wiretapping and the laws that apply to it. We will do everything we can to ensure that any laws or law enforcement requests are indeed applicable and valid, to take as "pro-user" a privacy position as possible within our legal and privacy framework, and to continue to communicate clearly with our users about what we are and aren't doing.

I hope this helps answer the question.

Perfectly clear. Thank you. I think in a case like this having it explicitly stated that you'll protect our user-to-user privacy AND fully comply with applicable laws and LEO requests removes most of the doubt. And that makes it pretty obvious that if we are the 1% that uses this service for evil doing, we are not to expect much in the way of privacy. I think that actually makes things better for the other 99% that have no plans to do evil. I don't think your average Craigslist seller or online dater is going to be that concerned over it. A drug dealer might be... should be. And that makes things better for everyone. I can think of a few uses cases I could apply to this service. The rates seem reasonable to me (having done zero comparison shopping). Unfortunately, I don't do iOS... so I'm unable to be a customer at this time. But best of luck to you.

FWIW, I have seen mentions in some of the coverage that they plan an Android version (if that indeed would help you). Given the deep integration with the phone dialer and other device hooks as well as the in-app purchasing model, I can understand why they wanted to start with a single mobile platform (whatever it may be).

Not to be overly recursive, but here's an Ars Technica writeup that digs into some of these issues wrt Burner (and points to this thread): http://arstechnica.com/business/2012/08/burner-wants-to-help...

Unfortunately NSLs make this very difficult:(

Done and done:


We'd be overjoyed if some other folks deployed these ...

It will be interesting if these ever get legally tested.

Be pessimistic, start from there. Assume that they could and would hand you over to the authorities for a donut.

This is true of any information system you don't control yourself to any realistic degree. Solved. Next?

Sure, assume that. But is it too much to ask they state it either way? Why be so dismissive about it?

Not taking it personally. heretohelp's comment history suggests a proclivity to unnecessary confrontation and aggressive tone.

It's obviously a question you could ask about any service ("Google, are you concerned about criminals using Gmail to conduct criminal business?"), but it seems particularly worth addressing when the name of your product evokes usage by drug dealers and mobsters to evade law enforcement.

Most web email providers stamp outbound messages with the source IP address used when sending the message as a way of discouraging illegal activity.

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