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Can "Bat Phones" Protect Your Privacy?

Updated on November 22, 2014
Edward Snowden, whistleblower
Edward Snowden, whistleblower | Source

The NSA is Spying on You

With all the news about the National Security Agency spying on everyone’s communications unapologetically, even average folks are feeling uncomfortable now with their loss of privacy. Although the government has been doing it for years, they finally had to admit it when the NSA got busted by the whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The President showed very little concern about the massive data collection and blanket search warrant in his speech last week. It is a good bet government will not save you from yourselves; you will have to take matters into your own hands. Luckily, this lack of any world privacy also concerned some very smart ways around the government spying.

Most people were unaware that every text and conversation they have is recorded and stored now. I had a hard time believing it was that bad until I saw a very real-world example go down. I had a friend who talked with her cousin for hours a week on the phone. Her cousin was murdered by another family member in a domestic dispute. During the trial, conversations she thought she was having in private years ago magically appeared. They were making recordings way before anyone was a suspect for anything. After that, I knew it was real and figured there had to be an easier way to protect myself from being recorded and archived.

Silent Circle

In the past, encryption programs had been clunky and hard to navigate. Silent Circle App made this process a whole lot easier. Private communication to another phone is possible, as long as both phones have the application installed.

For US$9.99 a month you can send peer-to-peer encrypted texts, phone calls, and file transfers from your mobile device. For an extra fee you can have it can use their out circle access to send protected communications to land lines.

You can always just get the new Blackphone, made by Silent Circle, if you want to make it simpler. The new phone was designed by the cryptographers and security experts at Silent Circle. It runs on a new security-based Android system called PrivatOS. There has been a lot of good buzz about the phone, but you do need to heed some warnings.

Blackphone by Silent Circle
Blackphone by Silent Circle | Source

The Blackphone

Brian Sovryn from the Sovryn Tech Podcast warns,

“I will say that Blackphone has Phil Zimmerman (the creator of PGP encryption) on its team--which is pretty awesome.

But the instant anyone puts the FB Messenger app on any of these phones, all the security in the world is gone (as far as I can tell), because the FB Messenger app (along with other apps) requires access to your microphone and sometimes cameras in their permissions, meaning they can turn on your microphone/camera anytime.

So while these phones are very legit as long as they are used the way intended (and they should work very well in that sense), the instant you start putting popular apps on, I think you lose that security.”

It is rumored that Silent Circle plans on developing an anti-surveillance email service as well.

Liberty Private Network
Liberty Private Network | Source

Liberty Private Network

Another business, called Liberty Private Network, takes communication security even further and actually made its own anonymous crytophone service.

If one wants to take security to the highest level, they have to completely remove themselves from any government-compliant cellular network altogether. A new private communication platform called The Liberty Private Network does not allow Big Brother backdoors of any kind, and works anywhere there is a Wi-Fi signal. The devices are lovingly referred to as “Bat Phones” since they can only call other phones in the network.

In an interview with Michael Dean from the Freedom Feens radio show, the creator of the phone warned that the actual hardware was a big problem, and no phone connected to any mobile service was completely secure. His solution was to not use mobile phone technology, and to work around the system by creating his own private system. The service is only US$100 a year for unlimited minutes, and they do not keep any call records to protect your privacy. The only catch is if you are the only person you know who owns one, you’ll never hear from anyone again (which, in some cases, might not be such a bad thing.)

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    • Pittsburgh Vegan profile image

      Adam Rahuba 3 years ago from Pittsburgh, PA

      With the exception of making calls on my cell phone (and to be honest, if the NSA wants to hear my boring conversations with my grandmother, so be it), I run ALL of my online communication through a secure VPN. This technology gives me peace of mind that the government isn't spying on me... or that if they tried, they'd get a bunch of gibberish.

      This might be a decent service, I'm going to have to look into it.

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