Blackphone 2 the only mobile phone designed for “privacy without compromise” was released by Silent Circle this September 28. As their Youtube video goes viral, their only privacy shortfall is not accepting bitcoin for purchases.
Silent Circle, one of the few tech companies to build their whole enterprise on the commitment to privacy, has released Blackphone 2, a mobile phone developed from the ground up. Aiming to seal tight the many information leaks in modern telephony.
Android's mobile products are known for many things including ease of use, low prices, being quite Open Source, among other things. But one thing they are not known for, is privacy.
The mobile giant is often criticized for giving users little control over how much of their information Apps can access and sell to advertisers, utilize or store. Popular Apps often request permission to contact lists, phone ID, photos galleries and much more, without a real explanation of why they need these increasingly valuable resources. And giving users an all or nothing choice.
Even worse, like the highly ignored 'Terms and Agreements' check boxes before any download or subscription online, users regularly ignore the details about what information a given App will have your doors wide open to.
Silent Circle, is a privacy centric tech company with an all star team of engineers. Among them is Phill Zimmermann, inventor of PGP and ZRTP, two encryption and authentication standards that have stood the test of time, since the early days of the Internet.
With him are Jon Callas, creator of Apple's Full Disk Encryption, Mike Janke, Security expert and a former Navy Seal, and Bill Conner, Network Security Expert and CEO – according their website.
Blackphone 2, their latest product is intended to be a solution to the very complex world of privacy in the information age.
Blackphone 2: Post Snowden Technology.
Blackphone uses an operating system that is backwards compatible with Android called Silent OS. This means it is capable of running any Android native apps, and comes prepackaged with the Google Play Store.
To deal with the privacy challenges well illustrated in the #PrivacyProject video, Silent Circle implemented an identity management system that is intended to create strong and clear boundaries between what information apps can access.
For example, you could have a work only identity which holds key enterprise apps, contact lists and documents necessary for easy day-to-day business interactions.
At the same time, another identity specific to gaming could be created and live alongside it. This identity would have very specific apps and personal information related to what you do during your free time. Software from one can not - according to them – reach information of any other identity. They refer to this as ‘Space Management’.
Building on the idea of giving users full control over their devices and data, Blackphone 2 comes with a Security Center which allows them to choose which resources a given app has permission to. This happens after the app has been downloaded.
Don't want Facebook to have access to your camera or microphone? Done. Can't see why that hot new game needs to know your current location? Click, you are officially in 'off the grid'.
And notice this does not require rooting your phone, which is how this kind of control is possible today. That's big news regarding easy to use privacy.
Of course, as an android-based operating system, it can run most if not all android apps. That includes your favorite privacy centric Bitcoin wallets like Mycelium, or Airbits.
Here are some of the most prominent specs of Blackphone 2:
- LTE and Worldwide 3G/HSPA+ connectivity (nano-SIM)
- 5.5" FullHD Gorilla® Glass display
- Qualcomm® Snapdragon Octa-Core Processor™
- 3GB RAM & 32GB internal storage
- microSD card slot supports additional 128GB
- 13 MP BSI Camera Sensor (5 MP front)
- 3060 mAh Battery with Quick Charge™ 2.0
The phone currently sells for US$799.
Silent Circle's most obvious privacy leak.
Even with all this amazing technology, Silent Circle seems to have missed one crucial element of their privacy offering. The fact that you have to buy the phone through the highly intrusive, privacy void, modern financial system.
I've written before about how the banking system is built upon a foundation of personal user information which is being eroded daily, as we move further into a global, interconnected, Internet-based society.
As you read this, KYC and AML compliance standards are implemented in most major financial businesses and payment processors, requiring users to give remarkable amount of personal information to third parties. You might have noticed that it is now commonplace for Bitcoin exchanges to request copies of your passport, proof of address and full name or even your phone number, sometimes for trades lower than US$5,000.
Hacks to major corporations and government agencies steal the same information that banks and yes, Bitcoin exchanges use to authenticate their users.
Take for example the amazing and hard to even comprehend OPM hack, an attack on a major US Government agency, which compromised deeply personal information of more than 20 million Americans. Many of them government officials such as NSA agents.
This road towards identity theft and financial fraud has been paved for decades and today costs more than all other forms of theft combined, raking in a stunning US$24.7 billion, in 2012 alone.
Meanwhile, an incredibly secure and by comparison incredibly private financial technology is just waiting to be implemented by privacy aware companies like Silent Circle.
Bitcoin does not care what your name is, where you live, how old you are or what nationality you are from. All bitcoin cares about if whether or not you have a cryptographic string called a private key and boom. You can send money across the world and buy almost anything. No questions asked.
This unfortunately only works if merchants and businesses like Silent Circle, are willing to take a stand and implement a Bitcoin shopping cart, which payment processors like Coinbase and Bitpay make very easy.
Cointelegraph reached out to Silent Circle for comment regarding their thoughts about Bitcoin as a private money, as well as whether they had any plans to accept it as payment. A spokesman for the company responded:
“Unlike fiat currencies there is no central regulation of Bitcoin which makes it very hard to manage fiscally.”
Which does not really address any of the points made above.
Pre-paid Visa cards, purchased with cash, might be the only current way to buy Blackphone 2 in a private manner. And this will depend on what country you are living in, since in some of the countries I randomly checked, Silent Circle only accepts 'Money Transfers' and 'Paypal Standard'.