Blackphone CEO Toby Weir-Jones has a lot to say in response to BlackBerry’s recent post on its blog criticizing the company’s approach to privacy. Allow me to begin by saying the snark is strong with this one.
The piece on the Inside BlackBerry for Business Blog suggests that Blackphone (an encrypted phone) is “consumer grade” and not suitable for business users. It also criticized Blackphone for only having one piece of hardware currently on the market (the BP1). Weir-Jones was quick to point out that the article, of course, swiftly offers BlackBerry’s products as a privacy solution. Ahem. He also notes that he was a BlackBerry user at one point, using the 957 and several of the devices that followed. But his loyalty to the company waned, particularly in 2010:
Unfortunately, the world discovered in 2010 that RIM was willing to compromise its integrity if sufficient pressure was applied by governments intent on spying on the messages sent via the ubiquitous devices. Various statements from the Saudi, UAE, Indian, and other telecom regulatory bodies all confirmed the same thing: RIM made it technically possible for the formerly secret encrypted messages to be decrypted and viewed. Much speculation surrounds exactly what was done, and whether it remains in place today, but if anything there was more than one approach which achieved the same basic goal: a betrayal of the objectives of privacy.
As if that weren’t enough, Weir-Jones then lays out some numbers, specifically that BlackBerry’s adjusted share price is now $11.51 as compared to its $230 share price back in 2007 — a 95 percent decline.
However, he rebuts this by emphasizing the inclusion of encrypted voice communications to just about any phone number and Silent Phone and Silent Text, which can be managed by the Silent Circle Management Console. This tool is something “enterprises can use to manage their deployed secure comms subscriptions across the employee base,” he says. Global Dial (a world-wide encrypted calling plan) is also now available to Blackphone users.
The Blackphone is a hyper-encrypted smartphone developed to be NSA-proof by SGP Technologies. It runs on an Android-based operating system called PrivatOS and encrypts calls, video, chat, and more. And Silent Phone is a peer-to-peer system that prevents government eavesdropping on a Blackphone, even if such a thing was demanded. He then compares this to what BlackBerry offers: BBM Voice, which only enables subscribers to talk to other subscribers, which in his opinion leaves a door open on privacy.
“The whole point of Blackphone is privacy, choice, and control,” Weir-Jones says, which means individuals can make any choice they like for themselves and businesses can decide how its employees use its equipment. But he finds the argument that an “end-to-end approach” is the only “viable” option to be simply not true. And then he drives the point home: “… It’s that same approach which allowed BlackBerry to betray its customers and jettison its credibility.”
Though BlackBerry piece attempts to cut down Blackphone for not being directed at businesses, Weir-Jones deftly threw the criticism back in the former’s face. I suppose that’s what happens when you criticize a phone designed for privacy when you’ve had a few privacy breaches yourself.
Blackphone launched in 2014 and is headquartered in Geneva. The company just made its flagship phone available for preorder at the end of last month.