Does the provision of phone numbers inherently jeopardise anonymity? (Case of registering for Baidu)

(Or rather: How can giving phone numbers to online services jeopardise anonymity of online profiles that one intends to be separate from their real identity?)

There are many educational resources (e.g. resources on Chinese language) that are conveniently hosted only on Baidu cloud storage. Baidu has moved to mobile-number-only registration a few years ago. So I have security concerns in regards to extensive political profiling if I obtain an account whose behaviour is then linked to my real identity. Potential for Chinese governmental authorities to precisely track people based on that does not sound like a great prospect.

But if the following can be assumed, then mitigating it doesn’t seem so difficult:

Proposition: Without the first-hand capturing of easily personally identifiable information, an internet service can only associate that profile to people’s real identities with helpful information from a third-party.

So then, assume that I get a new number from a telecoms company that will not provide my real identity (knowledge of identity by the telecoms company is inevitable) to the Chinese government whenever they ask, and that I only use it for anonymous services, i.e. by not providing my real identity to any third party linked with that number — then it’s pretty difficult to track me down (on the parts of Baidu and other Chinese internet services)?

If the government really wants to track you, they will. Cell tower triangulation is a thing after all.

But for standard mass surveillance, a burner number would suffice (although phone number is just a single datapoint out of many that could be used to track you, so deal with that too)

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Indeed. If one were in China (I’m not) then that’s a concern if the government really finds them to be threatening. I will consider getting a burner number then. Just to avoid unnecessary collection of data on me that Chinese authorities may exploit and cause problems later on.

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Even if you could find a phone number provider that wouldn’t tell the government, one potential thing to consider is the sharing of information between services by data brokers. This could possibly lead to data brokers correlating your burner phone number to multiple services, thus gleaning data about you (even if they don’t have your identity directly). It isn’t inconcievable that a government could simply purchase this info, for example the US government has been found to purchase location data. Note, that I have no idea what the actual chance of this happening is, whether this would lead to harmful results, or what the actual impact of this on your privacy would be (it would seem to me that the Chinese government would not have a huge reason to go out of it’s way to purchase random non-Chinese citizens’ data…), so take everything I just said with a grain of salt, I am not a privacy expert or researcher.