Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Silent Circle’s BlackPhone 2 gets around Australian metadata laws

Going dark ... the Blackphone 2 is able to place calls, send text messages, and store con
Going dark ... the Blackphone 2 is able to place calls, send text messages, and store contacts with complete privacy. Picture: Silent Circle Source: Supplied
 
A SMARTPHONE capable of sidestepping Australia’s proposed metadata retention laws and hiding what calls and messages its users make has debuted at the world’s largest mobile phone show in Barcelona. 

American firm Silent Circle revealed its second highly encrypted handset at Mobile World Congress with the BlackPhone 2 able to place calls, send text messages, and store contacts with complete privacy.

The handset, due to be released later this year alongside a larger BlackPhone+ model, can also override data demands from third-party apps like Facebook and Angry Birds, and protect the privacy of celebrities like those affected by the Apple iCloud nude photo breach last year, according to its makers.

But the phone would also evade Australia’s metadata retention laws by keeping data private from carriers and even from the phone’s maker.

Silent Circle spokesman Federico Polakoff said the BlackPhone had been designed to protect the privacy of large businesses but had evolved to deliver protection to individuals after concerns about privacy breaches, government snooping, and malicious hacking.

“Everybody is a target for hacking, from those involved in the Sony hack to celebrities like Jennifer Lawrence,” he said.

“The reality is that people who use smartphones think that no one is watching but that is not necessarily the case.”

The BlackPhone 2 looks like any other smartphone, with a 5.5-inch touchscreen, 13-megapixel rear camera, 5-megapixel front camera, and Google Android operating system.

However, the phone runs Silent Circle software called PrivatOS that encrypts data including voice calls over the internet, text messages, and the phone’s contact book.

It can also keep web browsing private and, using a feature called Security Centre, control the privacy permissions demanded by third-party apps such as Twitter, Facebook and Google Plus.

“You don’t have to let Facebook change your contacts, track your location or modify your calendar — you can just switch that access off but still use the app,” Mr Polakoff said. “Why does Angry Birds need to access my contacts? You can just turn that off.”

Using the encrypted phone could leave a very limited metadata trail for the Australian Government, however, overcoming proposed laws that would force telecommunication providers to store basic information about customers’ telephone and internet histories for two years.

The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence Security handed down its report on the proposed metadata laws late last week, recommending further safeguards be added to the $400 million plan.
Mr Polakoff said the BlackPhone 2 and BlackPhone+ would be available for purchase from its website later this year, priced around $700.

news.com.au  3 Mar 2015

Aside from the fact that the proposed metadata laws will be put in place unlawfully, there are other methods that can be implemented to avoid corporate privacy breaches.

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