Phone Hits the Market
The NSA and other government agencies can do a lot of things with your cell phone.
For starters, they can gather “meta data” from your phone. This data tells them where you are, when you receive calls, who you receive calls from, and how long you talk.
That may not sound like much, but that’s all they need to create a map of your whereabouts and your associations.
The bad news? They’re already doing this on a massive scale.
Somewhere, in some government database is a map of your life. And from that map, they can figure out where you work, where you hang out, where you shop, and who the most important people are in your life. They can even find out what times of day you normally travel, and your favorite routes.
But that’s not all these prying bureaucrats can do with your phone…
- They can listen in on your calls. Legally, they need a warrant, but how often now have spy agencies shown a willingness to skirt the law? If they listen to your actual calls, they don’t just know who you’re talking to, but what you’re saying as well.
- They can hack into your text messages and monitor who you contact and what you say.
- They can even remotely switch on your cell phone’s microphone and listen to your conversations. And not just your phone conversations, mind you. They can listen in to anything you’re saying in the vicinity of your phone.
Cell phones are handy. I use one myself. But they present a hazard to your privacy.
Until now, you’ve had to choose been privacy and convenience.
Fortunately, the free market is bringing us another option … a snoop-free phone…
Privacy is Big Business
The corporate world has been demanding cell phone privacy for some time now. So, phones that have been hardened against snooping are nothing new.
What is new is the explosive growth for these kinds of devices. New demand is leading to new comprehensive solutions at more affordable prices.
The new “Blackphone” was just introduced in March. This smart phone encrypts text messages, voice calls, and video chats. Those types of communication will stay private, even if government spies or identity thieves are trying to listen in.
The big difference between this phone and previous versions is the price. Until now, most encrypted phones cost well over $1000 a piece. That doesn’t include any service contracts or licenses for the actual encryption software.
The Blackphone costs just over $600, and includes two years worth of encryption service. It’s the first privacy-oriented phone meant to reach a mass market.
If you’re not ready to make the investment in a secure phone like the Blackphone, there are software applications you can use that will help to harden your existing phone against privacy attacks.
One possibility is called the Guardian Project. This open-source software is free to download and will give you a way to secure your cell phone communications.
The Drawbacks of
Secure Cell Phones
I applaud the efforts of companies who are attempting to make secure communications accessible to everyone with a cell phone. But, there are some serious drawbacks to consider.
First, adding software to encrypt your communications only works if the person you are connecting with is using the same software. If not, your communications won’t be fully encrypted. It’s still better than nothing, but not as secure as you might think.
Second, these phones address the issue of government agencies listening in on cell phone conversations. But they don’t prevent governments from gathering meta data from your cell phone. So, even with a secure phone, the government will still have a map of your movements and your call records.
If you don’t want the government to know where you’re going, either take the battery out of your cell phone or leave it at home. If you don’t want the government to have a record of who you’re calling, go old school, and use a pay phone. All of this defeats the purpose of a cell phone’s convenience, but these steps are the only way to ensure your privacy against government snoops.
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