For the past few years, Gingerich has been laying the groundwork for Sopranica, an open source, DIY cell network that allows smartphone owners to make calls, send texts and eventually browse the internet with total anonymity.In January, Gingerich published the code for the first part of Sopranica called JMP. This is essentially a way of using a secure instant messaging protocol called XMPP, better known as Jabber, to communicate over voice and text from an anonymous phone number. JMP is the first phase of the Sopranica network.The next phase—called WOM—will create the physical infrastructure for the cell network with a community radio network. This will essentially involve people hosting small, inexpensive radio devices in their home that plug into their routers to provide internet access points to Sopranica users in the area.
Getting set up with JMP is easy. First, you need to create a free and anonymous Jabber ID, which is like an email address. I had already created a Jabber ID with the Chaos Computer Club (a German hacking group), but there are a lot of other servers you can register with as well. The only difference will be the web address in your Jabber ID will be different—for example, email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Next, you need to install a Jabber app on your phone. I use Android and opted for Xabber, but again, there are plenty of options to choose from (Conversations is a good choice if you want to use Sopranica for picture messaging, for instance). You’ll also need to install a Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) app, which allows your phone to make calls and send texts over the internet instead of the regular cellular network. For Android users, the best choice is probably CSipSimple and for iPhones your best bet is Linphone.
Finally, it’s time to get your phone number. If you navigate to Sopranica’s JMP website, there is a list of numbers at the bottom. These phone numbers are generated by Sopranica’s Voice Over IP (VOIP) provider which provides talk and text services over the internet. Click whichever number you want to be your new number on the Sopranica network and enter your Jabber ID. A confirmation code should be sent to your phone and will appear in your Jabber app.
Once you’ve entered this code, you’re ready to use your new, anonymous number. To do this, use your SIP app and send a text or dial a number just like you would otherwise. This communication will be made through your new Sopranica number, rather than whichever cell carrier you normally use.
In many ways, JMP is kind of like getting a free VOIP number with Google Voice and then using that number to register for an account on the encrypted messaging platform Signal.
The downside of this, of course, is that the VOIP number you get from Google is registered under your name with Google, so even if the people who you communicate with using that number can’t trace it to you, Google can. On the other hand, all aspects of JMP are anonymous—neither the Jabber ID nor the JMP phone number require identifying information to register.