‘Blackphone’ Sells Privacy, not Data

Blackphone is a "journey built upon privacy, control and security wrapped in a high-end smartphone built by a team of cryptographers, security and mobile innovators."

Spanish company, Geeksphone, teamed up with U.S. encrypted-communications service, Silent Circle, to create a privacy-based “open-sourced” Android smartphone called Blackphone.

Blackphone aims to take on the impossible task of protecting user data from big government. Initially touted by the media as NSA proof, it pits itself against data-monetization companies that mine and sell user data to advertisers. Users can connect to pubic Wi-Fi without fear of being bombarded by promotional offers or people with who use location-based apps for stalking purposes.

Blackphone owners are required to provide an email address upon setup, which is the only user information the company keeps. Usernames do not have to be linked to real names. The company stores its data in a Swiss vault with the same security one would expect from a Swiss bank account. But as Quartz points out, “anything other than the apps, such as the phone’s internal hardware that it uses to communicate with cell towers, is up for grabs.”

And while the company website says, “be confident in your personal communications,” being overconfident could have the opposite effect of making the phone’s owners more vulnerable than before:

Yet it is this confidence that is most dangerous. The assumption of privacy, or security, means users lower their guard. To those most likely to need a Blackphone — top-level executives, corporate lawyers, government lawyers, criminals — feeling more secure in what remains a vulnerable device can be a fatal mistake, and not just to the NSA. Sophisticated criminals too understand that there remain vulnerabilities.

Blackphone will start shipping this summer for $629, however, many privacy buffs are still opting for Google Play’s free version, Webroot, which offers many of the same security features, reports NPR. And Blackphone’s exclusive encryption function cannot override data stored by wireless carriers such as IP addresses and phone numbers.

A similar smartphone for defense customers by Boeing, called Black, self-destructs if anyone tries to tamper with it.

*featured image credit: Albert Gea/Reuters/Landov