PRIVACY RECIPE: Creating an online persona

New Yorker Magazine

Step 1: Get a phone number that is not tied to your personal information.

IMAGE SOURCE: “My Phone Bought This” by oliver t is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.
  • You can get a SIM card with cash and without ID in many places.
  • Cash payment allows for anonymity.
  • You can maintain the number by recharging or topping up regularly in cash.
  • Physical purchase means the seller or CCTV cameras can capture your face.

Important notes on your device

  • One way is to look for behavioral patterns in the phone network that can connects numbers. Telecommunication companies (telcos) monitor all kinds of behavior of numbers in their networks for various reasons. When you switch to the privacy-enhancing SIM card on the same phone, they can tell that a new SIM went online right after your SIM went offline at the same location (or vice-versa). As this pattern repeats, telcos can identify the new, unknown SIM by looking for the number that went offline right before this new number goes online. This is not hard for telcos as they have been using algorithms to spot the patterns, such as The Hemisphere Project.
  • Another way is to track your phone’s IMEI number. Every phone comes with an IMEI number. This number can be deemed as the serial number of your phone. Same as the behavior between numbers, telcos can use a phone’s IMEI number to connect ALL SIM cards used on that phone.
  • Get a new phone in cash, just for this purpose. (best)
  • Use an old phone that was previously used by someone else. (ok)
  • Use your new online profile only on an app you haven’t already used on this phone. (meh/better than nothing)
  • Google Voice app: If you live in the United States, may work on your cell phone to send & receive calls/sms. The account is connected to a google account. Whenlooking to receive app verification text, Google Voice works without issue with the most apps/site in my tests.
  • Burner app: The smart phone app, Burner works as an alternative phone number. The app can make/receive calls and send SMS. Using a US or Canada number.
  • CoverMe app: Works like Burner but claims to secure your messages so the staff at CoverMe can not read them. Includes a few other tools and features besides a virtual number.
  • Hushed app: Works like Burner but offers international numbers and calling. Not all numbers offer the same functionality. Most have SMS and Voice call as an option.
  • Skype in/Skype out: Offers international numbers and calling. High quality audio.

Step 2: Get an email address detached from your real identity

Important preparation: use a VPN to protect your privacy online

REMEMBER: Tutanota terms of service says ONE free account per individual.

About gift cards

Step 3: Set up a Twilio number for creating untraceable online accounts

Creating an account on

Email verification is designed to prevent automated and fake email sign ups.
You need to upgrade your TWILIO account to do anything else.

Bonus step: Start a Telegram account with Twilio number

You will start here
All Products and Services (…)
API EXPLORER allows you to see the data flowing in or out of your TWILIO account.
PROGRAMMABLE SMS is the screen that shows all things related to text messages.
MESSAGES can be found under PROGRAMMABLE SMS is the area that lets you handle SMS text and images.
MAKE A REQUEST to find the message from TELEGRAM and retrieve our verification code.
A 100% computer generated face using the ROSEBUD.AI tools at Generative Photos.

Frequently Asked Questions…




technology fellow @Ford Foundation

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matt mitchell

matt mitchell

technology fellow @Ford Foundation

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