Tuesday, September 23, 2014

How to give your Google Voice number away

So for whatever reason you don't want/need your Google Voice number anymore. You could let it go stagnant for 9 months and let Google reclaim it (if Google gave it to you). Or you could give it to a friend who needs it. Now let me be clear that you are not allowed to sell your number. As stated in the Google Voice Acceptable Use Policy, "Do not sell, trade, resell or otherwise exploit for any unauthorized commercial purpose or transfer any Google Voice account or the Google Voice Service." One might argue that you can't transfer a Google Voice account, anyway, without transferring your entire Google account with it. If you transfer just the number from one account to another, with instructions for doing so given by Google here, only the number is transferred and not all of the other account information, such as texts, messages, contacts, etc. Does that mean we have some sort of loophole where we can sell the number but not the account (semantics!)? I don't know and am certainly not a lawyer. But I will describe how you can give your number to a friend.

Skeptical reader: If Google gives instructions on how to transfer your number from one account to another (and you even liked to those instructions earlier) why the heck are you explaining to me how to transfer my number?
Me: Trust! (and/or proximity)

The key to the transfer instructions is that Google requires you to be logged in to both accounts on the same computer, that is, both the account with the number and the account where you'd like the number. I like my friends but I'm not letting them log in to my account while they're logged in to theirs. And if we're not in the same room, then I'd have to share my password with them. That's not going to happen. So to keep my friend honest and to allow us to not have to be in the same room, do the following:

  1. Make a new GMail account with Google. This will be your "escrow" account.
    1. a) DON'T add two-factor authentication or recovery contact details (email, phone number) to this account. You just need a middleman.
  2. Transfer your Google Voice number from your account to this "escrow" account (following the instructions).
  3. Give the username and password of the "escrow" account to your friend.
  4. Now give your friend the instructions so he can transfer the number to his account.

Done! Friend-trust is still intact and now he has your old Google Voice number.