In a world where our phones hold our innermost secrets (or at least access to them), what does the future of mobile privacy look like?
From pictures to emails, texts to videos, login information and metadata, our phones store everything. The larger the portion of our lives that we manage on our phones, the more our phones know about us. While the vast majority of us have nothing to fear from surveillance, it doesn’t stop us wanting to take control of our own data and keep our private lives private.
The privacy problem
While not everyone has juicy information or trade secrets that might be worth anything to governments or criminals, that doesn’t mean the data is any less valuable. Social networks track our every move and even use face recognition to pick us out of images. Browsers cache every page we visit and most of this is not only kept on our phone but backed up to the cloud too. All this information leaves us somewhat exposed, even when we turn on all the privacy settings. Even anonymised mobile data can be used to learn more about a person by building patterns and personas.
With suspected widespread use of cell site simulators, fake Wi-Fi hotspots and other challenges, the mobile landscape doesn’t look good for privacy. That’s even before we get to how certain phone providers treat our data and the prevalence of state-sponsored snooping.
Behavioural elements aside, it looks like many companies are recognising a niche in the market and are working on technologies which will help protect us from all this.
Since hardware and design innovations seem to have slowed down, we think addressing privacy could be the next differentiator between handsets. Phones are already fast enough, powerful enough and jam packed with all kinds of apps that make your life that little bit easier, so how about keeping us safe while we use them? Two companies stand out in this field: Silent Circle and FreedomPop.
Silent Circle are the makers of the Blackphone 2 which is apparently the ‘first smartphone built from the ground up to be private by design’. They also offer Silent OS, an Android variant that has been heavily tweaked to withhold as much data as possible. Silent Circle also develop secure apps for enterprise.
FreedomPop offers the Privacy Phone, a handset designed to encrypt voice calls, enable anonymous web browsing, defend against data monitoring and protects the handset from malware and spyware. This double duty is why we think it has potential.
Personally, I think, this is the next step and the way forward for mobile phone technology – to treat phone users as the customer and not the product. Companies will strive to give us full control over what is shared from our phones and to safeguard the data we store on it.
We know that when using social media we are fair game because we are the product. Everyone knows this. But when we text or call someone on our phone, many of us have a false sense of security and privacy. At the moment that security doesn’t really exist, but if companies such as Silent Circle and FreedomPop deliver on their promises and reliable security apps keep being developed, the future is looking good for privacy.