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Blackphone – A New Android-based Phone Built Around Privacy

Blackphone is a new venture from the collaboration of US Silent Circle and Spain's Geeksphone. Its website is registered in privacy-conscious Switzerland. Most notably it includes the renowned cryptographers Phil Zimmermann and Jon Callas, the originators of PGP. As yet there is little technical information beyond a brief video on the Blackphone website – but the pedigree is impressive. Silent Circle, like Lavabit, shut down its secure email service when it became clear it could not protect its customers from court orders and NSA surveillance.

Zimmermann explains that secure email was just a detour. His real interest was secure telephony; but the technology did not at the time exist. "I had to wait for the rest of the technology infrastructure to catch up to make it possible to do secure telephony. PGP was kind of a detour for me while waiting for the rest of the technology to catch up to make really good secure telephony possible."

Now the technology and a pressing need combine. "The time has come," announces the video. "Data and humans have become one. Technology was supposed to make our lives better. Instead we have lost our privacy. We have become enslaved. Now it's time for a change."

"The number one priority in creating Blackphone," says Zimmermann, "is to uphold the objectives of privacy. It's not to serve some other business model of monetizing customer data. What we're trying to do is make a smartphone who`s whole purpose is to protect users' privacy."

"It is configured, set up, modified, so that the privacy aspects of it are all melded together from the security parts of the CPU to the hardware of the phone, to the operating system and apps so that just about everything that you do is private," explains Jon Callas. "There has never been a time in the world where privacy has become such a commodity, and none of the other devices in the world have been built around giving privacy back to the user," added Mike Janke, co-founder and CEO of Silent Circle.

Little else is yet known about the phone, except that it uses a hardened version of Android called PrivateOS, will presumably contain Silent Circle apps, and is otherwise a standard smartphone able to run standard Android apps. The company says that full details will be revealed at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona next month, and that it will be accepting pre-orders from February 24.

A final note on the video states, "Blackphone and PrivateOS are registered trademarks of SGP Technologies." SGP is a financial support services company.

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