The news, and subsequent scandal, that our phone conversations weren’t quite as private as we thought defined the latter half of 2013. As we begin a new year, what better time for a new smartphone company on the block to launch a security conscious, privacy orientated device. The company is called Blackphone, and it’s a joint venture between Geeksphone – the team which brought us the first Firefox OS hardware – and privacy specialists Silent Circle.
The phone, currently known as the Blackphone, will run a special version of Android called PrivatOS. Through the phone and PrivatOS, you’ll be able to make and receive secure calls, send and receive secure messages, and even transfer files and hold video chats without fear of anyone observing what you’re doing. Another possible feature is an anonymous VPN for private browsing.
It’s a GSM handset and will be sold unlocked, but unlike Geeksphone’s existing hardware, the high-end device will be, “Among the top performers from any manufacturer.” We can expect all the usual Android tools, including Google Play, to be installed along with a selection of tools to ensure our activity remains private.
The Blackphone team has an impressive pedigree when it comes to privacy. Phil Zimmerman and Jon Callas, the founder and co-founder of PGP respectively, are onboard, along with Mike Janke from Silent Circle. In fact, Silent Circle’s existing app probably gives us a good idea of how the Blackphone will work. Secure calls are made with VoIP (like Skype) using a username and a 10-digit pin code (a bit like BlackBerry), so only the two parties have access to the stream.
Messages are encrypted on the phone using a one-use key, which can also be applied to data transfers up to 100MB. A Snapchat-style auto delete option is also included, which will see any message, video, picture, or voice recording self destruct after a preset time. There’s also the option to recall accidentally sent messages.
The Blackphone will make its official debut at the beginning of Mobile World Congress on February 24, when pre-orders for the device are also expected to start. We’ve not been given a good look at the phone yet, nor have we been provided any specifications, so expect more news over the next few weeks.