A new smartphone is being developed that aims to put privacy and control first. The phone is a joint project between US encrypted communications organisation Silent Circle, and Geeksphone, a Spanish company specialising in the development of open source mobile telephony solutions. Geeksphone has been in operation for a number of years and already has a number of Android phones under its belt, whereas Silent Circle's encrypted email service was shut down by the company itself after rival Lavabit came under pressure from the NSA to hand over information about its users.
The Blackphone is described by its makers as "the world's first smartphone which prioritises the user's privacy and control, without any hooks to carriers or vendors. It comes pre-installed with all the tools you need to move throughout the world, conduct business, and stay in touch, while shielding you from prying eyes."
The smartphone will be powered by a custom version of Android called PrivatOS, and promises to allow users security and privacy in phone calls, secure texts, file transfer and storage and video chat. It will be available for pre-order from 24 February 2014.
As some commentators have pointed out, ensuring security is a multi-faceted endeavour that goes further than just the device and its software, but the Blackphone certainly plugs into the current zeitgeist, with many people concerned about surveillance by state security agencies and large corporations such as Google, creator of standard Android.
In this way the Blackphone joins a number of new devices being developed to respond to pressing issues. Other examples include the Fairphone, which was created to shine a light on the darker corners of the electronics supply chain and the obsolesense built into the device industry, and PhoneBloks, a modular smartphone project in partnership with Motorola in which components will be replaceable like Lego bricks, a response to the closed-source throwaway model that characterises much of the consumer electronics sector.
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A discussion of the "risk perception gap", its implications and how it can be closed