Blackphone: The Privacy Phone

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You may never have heard of Geeksphone, unless you take a particular interest in Firefox OS, but the Spanish manufacturer could be about to garner some global attention. It says it’ll launch a new handset at Mobile World Congress next month that will prioritize privacy and security instead of all the intrusions that smartphone users usually have to put up with from carriers, advertisers and the occasional government agency.

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Silent Circle and Geeksphone have partnered to develop Blackphone, which uses the PrivatOS operating system. The Blackphone gives individuals and organizations the ability to make and receive secure phone calls, exchange secure texts, transfer and store files, and video chat without compromising user privacy on the device.

We’re looking at an Android-based phone with a “top performing” processor and a cellular module that will be unlocked, free of geographical restrictions and compatible with any GSM network. In place of carrier bloatware, we’re promised a skin called “PrivatOS” that will allow you to make and receive secure phone calls and text messages, store files securely and browse the web privately through an anonymous VPN — services that are largely already available from Silent Circle, which happens to be a key partner on the Blackphone project.

It is the culmination of several careers’ worth of effort from leading figures in the industry, including Phil Zimmermann, creator of PGP; Javier Agüera and Rodrigo Silva-Ramos co-founders of Geeksphone; Jon Callas, co-founder of PGP and CTO of Silent Circle; Geeksphone; and Mike Janke, CEO of Silent Circle and former US Navy SEAL.

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“I have spent my whole career working towards the launch of secure telephony products,” said Zimmermann. “Blackphone provides users with everything they need to ensure privacy and control of their communications, along with all the other high-end smartphone features they have come to expect.”

Its unique selling point of privacy and security looks to be in direct competition to BlackBerry’s encryption, Samsung’s Knox service and other more established rivals

This comes at a time when privacy has become part of the public debate with revelations from former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. Snowden has released explosive documents detailing U.S. surveillance operations. A report in December from German magazine Der Spiegel said U.S. security authorities have intercepted computer shipments and hacked Microsoft‘s error reporting system.

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Neil Mawston, executive director at Strategy Analytics, believes the company would only really be able to sell a few thousand models due to limited distribution. He added that he expected that the company would look to selling its security technology to another company in the longer term.

“We believe the Blackphone is a niche product right now. Privacy and security are concerns for everyone, but they are not yet primary buying criteria for most smartphone shoppers,” he said.

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-MSN/ engadget