Blackphone will open privacy-focused app store

Blackphone, a privacy-focused smart phone, will get an app store in early 2015. Blackphone is designed to keep users' communications safe from hackers and electronic surveillance.

Blackphone.ch
Blackphone will soon have its own privacy-focused app store.

It’s no surprise that a new market for secure communications sprang up in the wake of the Edward Snowden leak: many people were shocked to learn the degree to which their e-mails and phone calls were being monitored, or had the potential to be monitored, by the government.

Companies such as Apple, Google, and even WhatsApp took steps to better secure their users’ communications -- from hackers as well as from governments -- and new companies formed to offer services that would be more shielded from electronic spying.

Perhaps the best-known of these new services is Blackphone, a privacy-focused smart phone running a version of Android called PrivatOS.

Blackphone, which costs $649 and has been shipping since June, uses special software to encrypt voice calls and text messages so they’re much harder to intercept and decypher -- and now that privacy will extend to apps as well. Blackphone announced on Tuesday that it will push out a software update in early 2015 that will add a curated app store to PrivatOS.

Only apps that meet the company’s security guidelines will be included in the store, so while users will have a fairly limited selection to choose from, they can also be confident that their communications will remain secure. This will likely be welcome news to anyone who’s ever downloaded malware or spyware from the Google Play store (memorably, one Android flashlight app silently collected user data, including location information, and sent it to advertisers). Blackphone chief executive Toby Weir-Jones told The Guardian that the company will play an active role in vetting apps before they’re included in the store, saying, “We’ll validate that the apps will do what they intend – call it the Apple model.”

The Blackphone update will also introduce Silent Spaces, a change to the way users’ data is handled. Silent Spaces will create separate “sandboxes” for work and personal use, keeping apps, personal information, and accounts in each sandbox separate from the other. Users can switch between Spaces without rebooting the phone, but apps in each Space cannot access the other Space. The change is meant to make things more secure for Blackphone users who use their handsets for, say, social networking as well as sending work e-mails.

Blackphone is currently marketing its handset to security-conscious business users, many of whom are abandoning their BlackBerry phones but still want to ensure that work communications remain secure. Blackphone encryption software is also available for iOS and Android devices, for those users who want to keep their texts safe but don’t want to go all-in with a new smart phone.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.