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Tech Companies Are Trying to Make NSA-Proof Encrypted Phones And Apps

From encryption apps to encrypted phones, telecommunications companies are pushing back

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When former contractor Edward Snowden leaked documents detailing the tools and practices of the National Security Agency, the realization that the secretive surveillance agency had access to piles of online and phone communication sparked an international debate over the balance of security and privacy in this hyper-connected age. And while programmers have begun protesting the NSA's acts, some telecommunications companies are taking action, too, by putting protection from the NSA into their own hands.

In Germany, Deutsche Telekom (the parent company for T-Mobile) is set to release a new communication app for cell phones that encrypts all communication, says the Guardian. Germans have been particularly upset by the news about the NSA, which included the revelation that the U.S. agency was spying on German Chancellor Angela Merke and other German ministers. The Guardian:

The service will be run by Deutsche Telekom’s enterprise unit T-Systems in co-operation with Germany’s Sichere Mobile Kommunikation mbH (GSMK), a provider of encrypted phone services and devices.

“To the best of my knowledge, this marks the first time that a major network operator throws its full weight behind end-to-end mobile voice encryption,” GSMK’s chief executive Bjoern Rupp said on Monday.

The Deutsche Telekom approach is to use a secure app on a regular phone. But another company, Silent Circle, wants to make privacy an even more integral part of the smartphone experience. The American company, says the CBC, is releasing a new phone, called the Blackphone, which is “designed to allow encrypted phone and text communications, private web browsing and secure file-sharing.” Silent Circle also has an app, Silent Phone, that allows encrypted transmissions from Androids and iPhones. Even the Blackphone, though, would still allow some information to be collection about the user, in particular, phone call metadata—which featured in Snowden's first round of releases.

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About Colin Schultz
Colin Schultz

Colin Schultz is a freelance science writer and editor based in Toronto, Canada. He blogs for Smart News and contributes to the American Geophysical Union. He has a B.Sc. in physical science and philosophy, and a M.A. in journalism.

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