Later this month at the Mobile World Congress, held annually in Barcelona, a new company will introduce a smartphone considered to be the most secure device ever for doing voice and text communication and Web browsing in complete privacy.
Blackphone, developed through a joint venture between Geeksphone, a Spanish smartphone maker, and Silent Circle, a maker of encryption software, will secure voice calls, texts and file transfers while its Web browser is built, by default, to block ad-tracking technology on Web sites.
While billed on some tech news Web sites as “NSA-proof,” the Blackphone “is designed to let people decide whether companies that profile consumer behavior will be permitted to collect information about their Web browsing or physical movements,” according to a February 7 article in MIT Technology Review.
The article was shared with me by Natalie Fonseca, head of the Privacy Identity Innovation group, which promotes privacy protection in our digital world and hosts tech forums on the subject. Thanks, Natalie.
“We are making a device that puts privacy first and tries to give control back to the end user to decide what information they share,” said Javier Agüera, cofounder and chief technology officer of Geeksphone, in the article. “Maybe some people want to benefit from personalized advertisements, but we think you should have a choice.”
This link to the Blackphone site includes a video telling the story of the product's design.
Blackphone will run on the Google Android mobile OS. Besides encrypting text and voice messages and blocking ad-tracking software in the browser, Blackphone will also block wi-fi beacons added to networks of late that collect information on how often customers visit and where they have accessed wi-fi previously. And besides blocking unwanted ads, the Blackphone browser also can block malware that can infect a device disguised as ads.
Existing smartphones and computers have settings that allow users to manage their own privacy settings, but the MIT article says opting out “is rarely easy.”
“Efforts to develop a standard way for people to signal to all websites that they don’t wish to be tracked have foundered, while opt-out schemes offered by ad industry groups and companies such as Google are clunky and little known,” says the article by tech journalist Tom Simonite.
If you think it’s ironic that a phone designed to thwart the ad revenue business model of companies like Google is running Google’s own Android OS, another story about Blackphone on the site WomenCitizen.com, says it will run “a highly skinned fork of Android dubbed PrivatOS,” so it’s not the Android that runs on your typical Samsung or HTC device.
Pricing for Blackphone hasn’t yet been revealed but it is network agnostic, which means you should be able to use it on any carrier in the U.S. or abroad.
I’m looking forward to seeing how it catches on.