While Apple has been known to have tight gates around its iOS platform, the iPhone is never safe from the snooping of the National Security Agency. Big Brother can purportedly see, listen to, and access an iPhone 5s any time the NSA needs to. While the best-selling smartphone in the United States cannot assure its owner's privacy, Blackphone promises to make privacy its top priority.
The Blackphone is the product of collaboration of encrypted communications specialist Silent Circle and Spain-based smartphone manufacturer Geeksphone. The two companies pitched in to create a new venture, that also goes by the same name as its first product, in Switzerland, to put privacy control in the hands of consumers.
The Blackphone manufacturer guarantees that privacy is its top priority in creating the smartphone ahead of mobile carriers and ahead of potential advertisements.
"We did this because there was a problem that was not being solved: secure communications. We offer completely encrypted, peer-to-peer communications. We have encrypted video, encrypted text and secure VoIP (Voice-over-Internet-Protocol) calls," said Silent Circle CEO Mike Janke.
"It's sexy, it's thin, it's sleek, but it also solves a problem. You can still go to Google and browse the web, but Google doesn't know who you are. It's a high-end smartphone. The user doesn't have to know how to use or how to spell encryption," Janke said, explaining how privacy has been built into the Blackphone and the users will not have to toggle with or set anything.
Details about the specifications of the smartphone are very limited. Out of the box, the Blackphone will operate using an Android-based system called PrivatOS which, according to the company, has been tweaked by the best minds in the security industry and engineered sans the compromises of the platform catering to manufacturers and telecom service providers.
"It has the features necessary to do all the things you need, as well as all the things you want, while maintaining your privacy and security and giving you the freedom to choose your carrier, your apps, and your location," the promo page of Blackphone reads. "The tools installed on Blackphone give you everything you need to take ownership of your mobile presence and digital footprints, and ensure nobody else can watch you without your knowledge."
According to the company, Blackphone will be unlocked when it reaches consumers so they will be able to use it with any mobile carrier. Pre-orders will start on Feb. 24. The startup firm projects sales hitting around 10 million in the next four years for its smartphone that will be cheaper than the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the iPhone 5s.
The company also guarantees that data retention will be minimal with only a username and phone number to be stored in its data center.
In December, reports based on the classified documents leaked by ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden came out claiming that the agency has an arsenal of hardware and software that can be used to access an individual's iPhone. The hacking unit of the NSA known as Office of Tailored Access Operation has access to hardware and software tools that can only be imaginable to ordinary citizens.
Using a program dubbed as "DROPOUT JEEP," NSA can allegedly tap into smartphones, especially Apple iPhones. For whatever purpose, the agency can install the malware in iPhones easily, claiming a success rate of 100 percent. The leaked documents also revealed the other tools that can easily snoop into networks of companies such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Yahoo.
While Apple promises to work on its products to make them more secure, it seems Blackphone is a step ahead of its iPhone in ensuring privacy of users.
Silent Circle was established in 2011 and provides mobile apps that allows consumers to make encrypted phone calls, video calls, text messages, and file transfers from mobile devices.Geeksphone, meanwhile, is a young company in Madrid known for rolling out an Android-based handset in 2009 and a smartphone operating on a Firefox OS last year.
If the NSA-proof Blackphone lives up to what it promises, it will surely bite a good chunk of market share from the iPhone 5s or its next iteration.