Why I Don’t Need Your Mobile Number…

A recent article in the New York Times reviewed the dangers of giving out your mobile number to strangers. Titled “A 10-Digit Key Code to Your Private Life: Your Cellphone Number” (http://tinyurl.com/jznzfo6), the article highlighted the under-appreciated fact that our mobile numbers can often be more valuable to profilers, hackers and identity thieves than our social security numbers. In fact, while not mentioned, it’s a well-known — albeit little discussed — fact that many companies use these numbers to build “dossiers” on their users for downstream reselling of customer lists, or for simple profiling that leads to “up selling” or “cross selling” opportunities. You may have never heard of Telesign — who advertises solutions to “…reduce fraud and establish identity assurance” (https://www.telesign.com) — but when you look at their industry support, you will see many consumer app industries that span from messaging to dating to gaming. Now, I’m sure it makes sense for banking (another on the list) services and apps to want to know my identity, but why do chatting apps or a gaming apps need to “verify” my number and identity? In fact, why do you need to know my identity at all?

Interestingly, several companies have recently emerged offering free or paid-for “second phone lines” for personal protection. The standard pitch is “protect yourself from unwanted …[fill in the blank].” The concept is not new, and goes back to the days when you could buy a physical burner phone (these offerings, unlike their newer software-based counterparts, were usually reserved for nefarious uses). Ironically, all of them require your mobile phone number to register with their service. Now why do you suppose they need that? If it’s free, who cares who you are? If it’s paid for, and the in-app purchase or credit card clears, why do they insist on having your mobile number? There’s no law requiring this information, and there’s arguably no justifiable “fraud prevention” argument either. Therefore, one has to wonder if, when using these services, we’re simply making the “trust one, over every one else” decision.

We think about this problem differently at Anonyome Labs. We come from the other side of the issue. We come from industries where identities were protected and secured, and where hackers, spammers and nation-states spent all their time trying to break into our systems. We decided to use our combined experience and knowledge to build apps for consumers that give them control: control over their information, control over who and how they share — and to provide them with fundamental safety and security when they’re online. To do this, we had to build a system that is as secure as any bank (arguably more than some), is intuitive and easy-to-use and, most importantly, does not require users to make a “trust” allocation decision. What I mean by this is, we don’t need to know anything about our users — literally nothing — in order for them to use, and benefit from, our apps. I don’t need to “verify your identity” because, frankly, I don’t want your identity. I can secure your use simply by applying the basics of Encryption 101: download the app, secure the connection to our system, protect it with a key that only the user controls, and encrypt everything on it and in between it.

How do I make money? Easy: you’re an App store user and I’m an app developer. You have a relationship with the App Store, and that most likely includes a way to buy stuff. I’ve got a relationship with the App Store to sell stuff, and Apple (in this case) mediates the transaction. Apple and you maintain the financial terms and I simply get paid for anything you believe is valuable (hopefully my premium offerings). It’s all safe, secure and completely private. There’s no system that’s subject to hacks (thank you, Yahoo), no mobile numbers to collect and sell (thank you, WhatsApp), and no personal privacy intrusions (thanks… well you get where I’m going).

Any company that isn’t your bank, healthcare provider, or employer — and who that tells you that they need your mobile number to “verify your identity” — isn’t telling you the whole story. Why? Because, in the online world, we’ve tolerated the slow erosion of our rights simply because there has been no other alternative. We’re out to change this at Anonyome Labs. We believe some rights are fundamental; like the right to be left alone, the right to be anonymous, and the right to simply hide in a crowd. If you’re one of these people, or maybe you just want that discount, that white paper, that trial membership — without selling your soul and your identity — then you need to check us out.

FWIW.