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Masked Phone Numbers with Python and Flask

This Flask sample application is modeled after the rental experience created by AirBnB but with more Klingons.

Host users can offer rental properties which other guest users can reserve. The guest and the host can then anonymously communicate via a disposable Twilio phone number created just for a reservation. In this tutorial, we'll show you the key bits of code to make this work.

To run this sample app yourself, download the code and follow the instructions on GitHub.

Legal implications of managing communications between users

If you choose to manage communications between your users, including voice calls, text-based messages (e.g., SMS), and chat, you may need to comply with certain laws and regulations, including those regarding obtaining consent. Additional information regarding legal compliance considerations and best practices for using Twilio to manage and record communications between your users, such as when using Twilio Proxy, can be found here.

Notice: Twilio recommends that you consult with your legal counsel to make sure that you are complying with all applicable laws in connection with communications you record or store using Twilio.

Read how Lyft uses masked phone numbers to let customers securely contact drivers.

Let's get started!

Create a Reservation

The first step in connecting a guest and a host is creating a reservation.

We handle here a submission form for a new reservation. After we save the reservation to the database, we send the host an SMS message asking them to accept or reject the reservation.


        Create A New Reservation

        Part of our reservation system is receiving reservation requests from potential renters. However, these reservations need to be confirmed. Let's see how we would handle this step.

        Confirm the Reservation

        Confirm the Reservation

        Before the reservation is finalized, the host needs to confirm that the property was reserved. Learn how to automate this process on our first AirTNG tutorial Workflow Automation.


              Confirm the Reservation

              Once the reservation is confirmed, we need to purchase a Twilio number that the guest and host can use to communicate.

              Purchase a Twilio Number

              Purchase a Twilio Number

              Here we use the Twilio Python helper library to search for and buy a new phone number to associate with the reservation. We start by searching for a number with a local area code - if we can't find one, we take any available phone number in that country.

              When we buy the number, we designate a TwiML Application that will handle webhook requests when the new number receives an incoming call or text.

              We then save the new phone number on our Reservation model. Therefore when our app receives calls or messages to this number we know which reservation the call or text belongs to.


                    Purchase a Twilio Number


                    Now that each reservation has a Twilio Phone Number, we can see how the application will look up reservations as guest or host calls come in.

                    Find a Reservation

                    Find a Reservation

                    When someone messages or calls one of the Twilio numbers (that we purchased for a reservation) Twilio makes a request to the URL you set in the TwiML app. That request will contain some helpful metadata:

                    • The incoming_phone_number number that originally called or sent an SMS.
                    • The anonymous_phone_number Twilio number that triggered this request.

                    Take a look at Twilio's SMS Documentation and Twilio's Voice Documentation for a full list of the parameters you can use.

                    In our code we use the To parameter sent by Twilio to find a reservation that has the number we bought stored in it, as this is the number both hosts and guests will call and send SMSs to.


                          Find a Reservation

                          Next, let's see how to connect the guest and the host via SMS.

                          Connect Via SMS

                          Connect Via SMS

                          Our TwiML application should be configured to send HTTP requests to this controller method on any incoming text message. Our app responds with TwiML to tell Twilio what to do in response to the message.

                          If the initial message sent to the anonymous number was sent by the host, we forward it on to the guest. Likewise, if the original message was sent by the guest, we forward it to the host.

                          We wrote a helper function called gather_outgoing_phone_number to help us determine which party to forward the message to.


                                Connect Via SMS

                                Let's see how to connect the guest and the host via phone call next.

                                Connect Via Phone Call

                                Connect Via Phone Call

                                Our Twilio application will send HTTP requests to this method on any incoming voice call. Our app responds with TwiML instructions that tell Twilio to Play an introductory MP3 audio file and then Dial either the guest or host, depending on who initiated the call.


                                      Connect Via Phone Call

                                      That's it! We've just implemented anonymous communications that allow your customers to connect while protecting their privacy.

                                      Where to Next?

                                      Where to Next?

                                      If you're a Python developer working with Twilio you might want to check out these other tutorials:

                                      IVR: Phone Tree

                                      Create a seamless customer service experience by building an IVR Phone Tree for your company.

                                      Call Tracking

                                      Measure the effectiveness of different marketing campaigns by assigning a unique phone number to different advertisements and track which ones have the best call rates while getting some data about the callers themselves.

                                      Did this help?

                                      Thanks for checking out this tutorial! If you have any feedback to share with us, we'd love to hear it. Tweet @twilio to let us know what you think.

                                      David Prothero Kat King Andrew Baker Jose Oliveros
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                                      Need some help?

                                      We all do sometimes; code is hard. Get help now from our support team, or lean on the wisdom of the crowd by visiting Twilio's Stack Overflow Collective or browsing the Twilio tag on Stack Overflow.


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