News / Science & Technology

Mobile Privacy Sells in Post-Snowden World

An employee of German IT-security and encryption specialist Rohde und Schwarz SIT GmbH presents a TopSec phone encryption system next to a mobile phone in Berlin, Oct.   29, 2013.
An employee of German IT-security and encryption specialist Rohde und Schwarz SIT GmbH presents a TopSec phone encryption system next to a mobile phone in Berlin, Oct. 29, 2013.
Reuters
Following the Snowden snooping revelations, there is growing interest in a range of mobile phone products with one central selling point: privacy.
 
The latest contender is the Blackphone, an Android software-based mobile which encrypts texts, voice calls and video chats and will be launched at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on Monday.
 
It aims to tap into the market for so-called mobile security management (MSM) products, which was estimated at $560 million in 2013 and is expected to nearly double in size to $1 billion a year by 2015, according to ABI Research.
 
Deutsche Telekom is also preparing to launch a smartphone app that encrypts voice and text messages, making it the first major network operator with a mass market-compatible product that will be rolled out to all its users.
 
Edward Snowden set off a global furor when he told newspapers last year the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) was mining the personal data of users of firms such as Google, Facebook and Skype in a secret program codenamed Prism.
 
Further leaks from the former NSA contractor, who faces espionage charges at home and has temporary asylum in Russia, suggested the United States had monitored phone conversations of some 35 world leaders, including Germany's Angela Merkel.
 
The Blackphone is the result of cooperation between security software company Silent Circle and Spanish handset maker GeeksPhone and they will launch it at the Barcelona event, Europe's largest annual phone industry conference.
 
While details about the handset have been closely guarded, analysts expect it to cost less than high-end iPhone models.
 
The Deutsche Telekom cloud-based app service, which will be officially unveiled at the CeBIT trade fair in Hanover next month, will be run with Germany's Sichere Mobile Kommunikation mbH (GSMK), a provider of encrypted phone services and devices.
 
GSMK, which has seen the number of customer inquiries it receives rise fivefold since the Snowden leaks, has long been offering phones with encryption services to governments and firms willing to fork out 1,300-2,500 euros per handset.
 
However, such new offerings as the app and the Blackphone mean such secure communications are ready to reach mass-market consumers.
 
WhatsApp
 
Free text messaging service WhatsApp, which Facebook agreed to acquire for $19 billion last week, is a well-known product which has reaped the benefit of growing consumer awareness of privacy issues.
 
Private communication is one of its appeals - it does not store the names of its more than 450 million users and instead simply uses phone numbers - making it hard to identify who is chatting with whom.
 
Mobile operator Swisscom said last week it has seen a tripling of downloads for its secure messaging service iO, which encrypts chats and calls and stores all its data in Switzerland. Swiss mobile messaging services myENIGMA and Threema also encrypt users' exchanges.
 
Deutsche Telekom has already launched its SiMKo 3-Smartphone, an adapted version of Samsung's Galaxy, which encrypts e-mails, contact data, appointments, text messages, photos, audio recording and voice conversations.
 
The open-source Guardian Project is another service offering free applications for secure communication over smartphones and tablets.
 
It aims to help human rights groups and journalists to safely communicate in hostile environments, and its Tor version for Android has been downloaded 2 million times so far, said project founder Nathan Freitas.
 
With its app, users can gain access to Internet services such as Twitter or Facebook, bypassing any government efforts to control the Internet. Most recently it saw interest in its software rise in the Ukraine, Turkey, Vietnam and Venezuela.
 
“Every time when there is a crisis, you see an increase in people talking about our software,” Freitas said.
 
Still, it is almost impossible to ensure total privacy, security experts say. Every phone with a digital transmitter can be traced and followed. And metadata, information about who calls who, can be as valuable as the content of conversations.
 
“I know it is a habit hard to unlearn, but it is better to leave your mobile at home, if you want to remain unnoticed,” Freitas said.

You May Like

India PM Modi's Party Distances Itself From Religious Conversions

BJP under fire for being slow to rein in hardline affiliate groups allegedly trying to promote Hindu-dominant agenda by luring Muslims and Christians to convert More

Anti-Whaling Group Found in Contempt of Court

Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica continue their campaign to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt More

UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid