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What controls this? I've signed up for many g-mail accounts before without a phone number and for some reason I am being prompted for one. I tried clearing cookies. I am trying to sign up for a throwaway google account so I can download some chrome extensions. I do not want my computer\browser to be bound to me via a phone number for privacy concerns.

Please do not advice me to use a friend's phone number. This is not scaleable. I create many throwaways for different accounts. I am going to download my extensions and forget about it. It's also not fair for google to assume that everyone has a phone (I could be a bum using McDonalds wifi) or friends.

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  • Basically, it's an anti-spam measure. It's to prevent spammers from creating dozens (or hundreds) of throwaway accounts that can send thousands of spam email messages each before they're shut down. If you want a throwaway account, get a free email address somewhere else and use that as your Google login.
    – ale
    Commented Mar 22, 2014 at 15:05

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As you said,

I've signed up for many g-mail accounts before without a phone number

That is the reason. They detected it and want to prevent more accounts being created (if they are not legitimate).

Captcha can be automatically or semi-automatically solved without much cost. Requiring an existing email account (this is done by other providers) can be solved very easily (even automated).

However, requiring a phone number allows to limit the number of accounts per phone, and since each phone number costs a considerable (compared to the other options) amount of money, spammers would choose providers not requiring phone verification over those that do because the cost of verifying each account is much higher (theoretically - actually the account might be even worth more than the cost of verifying via mobile phone).

You might be able to register a few accounts per phone, but not an unlimited amount of accounts.

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