Its been 20 years since “The Wire” and it still seems like everyone thinks Burner Phones are for Drug Dealers. But a Burner Phone is really just a private, anonymous cell phone. Authorities like the police are only monitoring criminals but everyone is monitoring you – that’s literally the definition of Surveillance Capitalism. Your telecom is monitoring you, your Internet Service Provider is monitoring you, your smart devices are monitoring you, and every app on your smart phone is monitoring you. A burner phone is a powerful tool for anyone that doesn’t want to be monitored all the time by everyone.
Privacy cannot be Purchased
Privacy is something you have to implement and it is not something you can purchase. Apple has promised to help protect your privacy by making themselves a single source for all your financial, social, internet, shopping… well, all your data. Google promises they are managing your data with diligence. VPN Services hold out the promise of anonymizing you for a fee if you just trust them with all your data. You get the idea. So, let’s create a burner phone just so you can Tweet with impunity, troll your friends on Facebook, shop and browse outside your search bubble, and share just how crappy your workplace conditions are without getting fired.
Burner Phone in 5 Easy Steps
We are going to build a burner phone for privacy and anonymity in a single afternoon. It is just going to take five easy steps and you will have a super-secret, super-private smart phone you can use for all the fun activities you were too scared to try on your own phone! Think about it – how many things have you wanted to do or try on your phone but were afraid it would follow you around for the rest of your Internet life? Go ahead – watch that video on YouTube, subscribe to that TikTok channel, download that app! You will have nothing to lose because there is nothing on your burner phone to steal.
Step 1 – Get some Cash
This is a little paranoid and perhaps excessive for all the law-abiding citizens out there but don’t use your credit card to buy all the things you will need. Its not because the FBI is going to comb through your activity and find out you are the culprit. It is because you never know who is going to sell your data after the fact (or whose checkout vendor). So, go down to the bank and take out some cash. If you just can’t be bothered, so be it, but don’t use your real email when asked at checkout.
Step 2 – Head to your Local FixIt Shop
Contrary to most guides on the Internet, we recommend getting a Smart Phone and prefer Android for our purposes. The downside of smart phones (vs feature phones) is they have GPS and tend to leak data. But remember this isn’t 2002 and we aren’t in The Wire. The risk of data leaks is an acceptable trade-off for having access to all that the mobile internet offers. Android also makes this risk manageable by giving us the ability to easily spoof our GPS. We want to do all the fun things without being monitored, not evade the police. Your local Cell Phone Repair shop (or Computer Repair shop) will have a deal on some quality Android Smart Phones. Be sure your used smart phone is unlocked and not tethered to a certain carrier for the most flexibility.
Step 3 – Head to Wal-Mart
Wal-Mart is a boon because they take cash and service a large and industrious clientele that likes to use Pre-Paid wireless services. Forget Amazon at this point. Personally, I like StraightTalk Wireless (no promotion here but they just work). But if you are a Ryan Reynolds Fan you can try Mint or some other brand of Pre-Paid that suits you. Just be aware that you will be asked for personal details when you activate your phone and account online and StraightTalk seems to know their clientele don’t want to be part of their “sales cycle”.
Step 4 – Purchase SIM Pack and Minutes
You should be able to purchase a SIM + Unlimited Minutes (that also work in Canada and Mexico) for about $45. Use your Cash for the same reasons as above. Maybe buy a screen protector and case just to keep your new (used) burner phone safe. After all, your burner phone is anonymous not worthless. The kit will tell you everything you need to know to replace the SIM card. It is super easy and non-technical but just in case they don’t mention it, make sure the phone is off when you replace the SIM.
Step 5 – Head to your Local Library (or don’t)
You are going to activate your phone and you don’t want to associate your home IP Address with your activation and account. This part is going above and beyond a bit but if you are feeling super stealthy head to your library to activate your phone and create your account. Again, the kit will have instructions but just go to the website and activate. It takes minutes and your phone will be active. Sometimes it takes 24 hours for service to be reliable but generally it is immediate.
Be prepared to supply a phone number and email address when you create your account and activate your device. This is a terrible irony given you are creating a burner phone designed to be anonymous. Personally, I use a MySudo account to create a throwaway phone number and email for the account creation – its 99 Cents and comes in handy a lot (nope, also not a sponsor). MySudo is not the same as having a burner phone and I’ll let you think about why (hint: data flow OUT of your phone versus INTO your phone). But if you REALLY want to go over the top just use anonymous email and give the number for a local 7-11 as your telephone number.
The first thing I did is create a Gmail Account because every service and app wants an email and what better email than on your new burner phone? And since Google is Android and so keen to integrate all your data, your new burner phone works smoothly with 90% of everything on the Internet. Then I create an account for every online service that is trash but requires a cell phone number: Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat, TikTok (technically they don’t but are still trash), Twitter, etc. Now you can finally view, (Sh!t)post, review, like, share, and surf as a free person. You’re Welcome.
Some of the brighter bulbs out there may be thinking, “Yeah, but after a while the burner phone will have its own search bubble and tracking and that’s just as bad as your normal phone.” Well, its not just as bad because its not really you – its your alter ego (or is your real phone your alter ego?!?) That is a question of philosophy you can ponder alone. However, the fact is the pre-paid service is for 30 days. A new SIM card is 99 Cents. Start over when ever you feel like it.