Feature Article

January 15, 2014

Silent Circle, Geeksphone Unveil New Privacy-focused Smartphone

For many, 2013 was a wakeup call in terms of privacy, thanks largely to the uncovering of the NSA’s PRISM program. But in a world where Google software is on the vast majority of mobile devices, it may seem difficult to maintain one’s privacy without also becoming a luddite. Fortunately, Silent Circle and Geeksphone have decided to address this situation with a new smartphone called Blackphone.

Silent Circle should be a familiar name to privacy proponents as the Washington D.C. start-up has a number of encryption bundles and privacy services aimed at both desktop and mobile users. Geeksphone, meanwhile, is a Spanish smartphone maker that apparently prefers to dabble in the fringe, based on its history making Firefox OS smartphones.

Together, the two companies have formed a Switzerland-based joint venture that is kicking things off with the release of what’s being billed as the world’s first smartphone to place privacy and control “directly in the hands of its users.”

Blackphone accomplishes this thanks to a customized, privacy-focused build of Android named PrivatOS. Otherwise, the carrier- and vendor-independent device provides its users with the ability to make and receive secure phone calls, exchange secure texts, transfer and store files, and video chat  — all without compromising user privacy.

"I have spent my whole career working towards the launch of secure telephony products," said Phil Zimmermann, co-founder and president of Silent Circle, in a statement. "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."

Almost appropriately, the Blackphone team is keeping further details of the device under wraps for now, but it will be made available for pre-order as of February 24, so it’s likely more details will emerge in the interim. In the meantime, interested parties will have to be satisfied with the Blackphone team’s word that its performance benchmarks are top notch and that it “has all the features necessary to do all the things you need, as well as the things you want.”

Edited by Cassandra Tucker

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