By Luke Hopewell
With governments looking to wrap their hands tighter around your personal data, getting a phone that can keep your information safe is paramount. Here are our top picks for super-private devices.
Want the creature comforts of a modern smartphone without worrying about the Feds coming around? You need a Blackphone.
“While the rest of the market is going one way, with selfie sticks and curved screens, we’re going down another, to the heart of problems, sticking with privacy and security,” said Silent Circle’s Mike Janke at the launch of the company’s new secure smartphone, the Blackphone 2. And he’s not kidding — though no frills in design, it’s kitted out with some serious security features.
First, the hardware. A 5-inch handset with a Full HD screen (protected on the outside by Gorilla Glass 3), it’s running on a 64-bit Qualcomm octa-core processor, backed by 3GB of RAM. A removable 3060mAh battery sits inside (with Quick Charge 2.0 features), with microSDXC support for expandable memory. So far, so standard.
It’s on the software side where things get a bit more interesting, and that 3GB of RAM shows its worth. Though Running on Android, the phone is equipped with Silent Circle’s PrivateOS 1.1, an enterprise-orientated, highly secure layer that sits on top of Google’s OS.
This gives users a “Spaces” UI, which keeps the different areas of your mobile life encrypted and compartmentalised. It’s essentially a virtualisation system, letting the Blackphone 2 act as separate “devices” within itself, even offering different log-ins running concurrently on each app or service. So, you can set up an Enterprise Space for your work documents and communications, a Personal Space for your private emails and saucy sexting pics, and a Silent Space that’s pretty much a phone-wide version of Chrome’s “Incognito Mode”.
Each space can be filled with the “Silent Suite” apps, whose functions are pretty self explanatory; Silent Text, Silent Contacts and Silent Phone, each keeping your communications encrypted and isolated from each other. The phone will also come equipped with the Silent Store, the world’s first-privacy and security orientated app store.
This one goes to the other end of the spectrum: if you’re worried about people snooping on the data your phone is sending, get a phone that sends no data!
The only issue with the classic Nokia 3310 is going to be tough to find a unit to call your very own. You’re going to be scouring eBay for a good long while to get your hands on one, or you’re going to be digging through your drawers at home looking for that one your Nana doesn’t use anymore.
Them’s the breaks.
Are you really paranoid? Like, Snowden-level frightened of the Feds? If so, then owning a phone is really not for you.
Instead, carry a few quid in change with you at all times around the city and find a payphone to stay in touch.
Honourable Mention: Apple iPhone/Microsoft Lumia 930/Google Nexus 5
Here’s the thing. Phones from large manufacturers like Apple, Microsoft and Google aren’t dangerously unsecure. All three have expressed a desire to fight back against government surveillance programs like the PRISM program being run by the NSA.
The problem is that these phones do collect data and feed them back not to the government, but to the manufacturers. They’ll analyse everything in a bid to “serve you better”, but if you’re concerned about any data leaking out to third-parties, it’s probably best to stay away.
Gizmodo Australia is gobbling up the news in a different timezone, so check them out if you need another Giz fix.