Civil Liberties

Blackphone Spearheads Privacy-Minded Telephony


Patientttt \ Wikimedia

Silent Circle and GeeksPhone kick started pre-orders for the cutting-edge Blackphone, a smartphone that "puts privacy and security ahead of everything else." The handy device is not quite immune to National Security Agency (NSA) snooping, but founders think it's in the cards.

The specs are decent, but privacy is the device's main selling point. TechCrunch gives a run-down of the apps:

The privacy tools include Silent Circle's apps, which include Silent Phone, Silent Text and Silent Contact for secure, private handling of each of those features via encryption so that only you and someone receiving said communications with a compatible device can access the contents. There's also a Wi-Fi connection manager for greater security on public networks, and a software that makes it possible to securely remote-wipe your device, and facilitate its recovery.

The base price is $629. It's unclear whether consumers will be willing to pay such high premiums for these features. 

Blackphone lets users choose their level of privacy. But it isn't NSA-proof. Blackphone Mike Janke co-founder told CBS, "There's nothing in the world today that's NSA proof, other than taking a phone and throwing it in the Potomac."

But they're working on it. "The Blackphone is just the beginning of the conversation," Blackphone president Philip Zimmermann told ExtremeTech. Zimmermann is creator of Pretty Good Privacy (PGP), the email encryption software, and is a well-respected privacy advocate. Secure telephony is merely Zimmermann's latest undertaking.

Janke says, "What we're doing is absolutely shaking up this system." Journalists, human rights activists, whistle-blowers, and privacy-minded individuals have all benefited from privacy tools like Internet Relay Chat (IRC), PGP, and Tor. Blackphone extends privacy's reach to phones.

With the ushering in of an international surveillance state and data-gathering technologies like the Internet of Things (the Internet will be embedded in objects like automobiles, kitchen equipment, biochips in animals) on the horizon, privacy-driven technologies deserve a spot in the future communications market.