The Internet has connected the world, which for the most part is a good thing. But a definite downside to the explosive growth in connective technology is a consumer's vulnerability to snooping and a loss of privacy.
Hackers seem to break into corporate databases with ease and, as recent revelations have shown, interested government agencies have increased their ability to track movements and phone calls. This trend may have created a new niche market – the security-oriented consumer.
There is no shortage of companies rushing to provide products and services. Geneva-based SGP Technologies has begun shipping its new Blackphone, which the company touts as among the most secure mobile devices available.
Focus on privacy
SGP says the Blackphone was built with a primary focus on user privacy, with integrated features for private communication, browsing and cloud storage.
"We are excited to achieve this key milestone on schedule and ship a remarkable device to customers that is the result of an unprecedented combination of privacy and mobile innovations and visionaries," said Toby Weir-Jones, CEO of SGP Technologies. "In a world where devices and apps increasingly offer features only in return for users' personal or sensitive information, the pent-up demand for Blackphone shows there is strong, international demand for our brand's devices and services that stand apart by placing privacy before all else."
How important is a privacy feature? To a political dissident, maybe a lot. In its review of the top breakthrough technologies of 2014, MIT Technology Review begins with a chilling example.
When anti-government demonstrators in Ukraine gathered earlier year, protesting the government's soon-to-be ousted president, everyone with a smartphone received the same message.
“Dear subscriber, you are registered as a participant in a mass disturbance.”
The government, apparently, was able to hone in on all the mobile devices in the narrow geographical region of the demonstration and identify their owners.
The MIT Review notes Blackphone appears to be capable of standing up to garden-variety hacking threats and overly aggressive marketers but isn't “NSA proof.”
But according to SGP, the Blackphone features plenty of security for the security-conscious user. For example it provides private encrypted voice and video calls and text messaging with attachments via Silent Circle's, Silent Phone and Silent Text. Users can community in security either through cellular or Wi-Fi connections.
Something called Disconnect Search is the default search provider for Blackphone, offering private browsing protection from invasive Web monitoring by hiding users' IP address, browser cookies and personal information. Blackphone also features Disconnect's Secure Wireless app, which is a smart VPN designed to prevent eavesdropping over Wi-Fi and cellular networks.
Also this week CIA Media has released a range of new features in its Android version of “CIA,” a souped-up caller ID app. The app reportedly detects incoming calls and searches 1.3 billion personal and business listings as the phone rings to display the caller identity.
But the updated app has been renamed “Reputation Check” and in sort of a privacy twist, now allows the user to observe how they are listed in the contacts lists of family and friends who call them.