Blackphone is made to keep the snoopers away

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. (WUSA9) --- Blackphone is designed to keep out the snoopers, while you text or call on the android phone. Calls are encrypted, so an intruder may not listen to the conversation.

"It allows [users] to communicate in complete privacy," said Toby Weir-Jones, CEO of SGP Technologies, S.A., the Swiss company behind the smartphone.

"What we're really seeing now is a heightened social awareness of the value of personal information," Weir-Jones said. He explains the phone may be useful for work or overseas travel or "…anywhere else where it's really sort of heightened conditions."

Blackphone costs $629. The GMS phone requires T-Mobile or AT&T as the cellphone carrier in the U.S. This past spring, Blackphone's online pre-orders sold out, according to its website.

"I think the phone strikes a chord. It's a very simple proposition. We want folks to be able to understand how their personal information is moving around in the world."

Weir-Jones says the phone has been requested by individuals, companies and governments.

Blackphone operates on its own version of the android called PrivateOS allowing the user to remain anonymous when browsing websites.

" ...When [consumers] use internet sites or internet-enabled apps, they also get to control how that information leaves the phone or if it leaves the phone," Weir-Jones explained at the Blackphone office.

On the Blackphone, users will get an alert when downloading apps that may track online behavior via social media. Consumers will be reminded of how their personal information or location is being tracked. The phone wants you to make a "deliberate choice" before personal data gets collected.

Updating the security technology on Blackphone is a constant focus, said Weir-Jones.

"We've already hired our chief security officer. And his role is essentially to protect the customer's interests both in how we build and distribute products and how we react when there are problems."

Weir-Jones says Blackphone anticipates security threats.

"The problems may be discovered in one of our third-party apps or somebody may discover a vulnerability in something that we've created. That's not unusual even for the most robust systems. What's important is how you respond to that and how you keep people informed."

If the court system asks for information from Blackphone, Weir-Jones says there isn't much to report.

"We have no records of the calls. We have no records of the texting. We have no records of what websites you might have visited. There's no central repository for any of that data."

Blackphone's critics ask if the phone will empower the crooks.

"We've had a few folks who've said, 'Well, only people who are going to buy it are the bad guys.' And our response is, 'Look, the presence of the tool doesn't create the intent to do harm.' We can't control whether somebody ultimately uses a ladder to do something illegal or uses our phone to do something illegal."

The goal of the phone is to maximize privacy for the consumer, according to Weir-Jones.

"We recognize that the vast majority of our customers are good, law-abiding folks who simply don't want to be manipulated by a commercial system they can't control."

Written/Produced by: Elizabeth Jia


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