FreedomPop Releasing Encrypted “Snowden Phone,” Accepting Bitcoin

Wed, 03/05/2014 - 12:00am
Ben Munson

FreedomPop is battling back against information gathering with its new Privacy Phone, a Samsung Galaxy S2 equipped for encrypted communications.FreedomPop Privacy Phone

Nicknamed the “Snowden Phone,” the Privacy Phone uses 128-bit encryption for voice and text, both over IP, and a secure VPN for encrypting data packets. Besides protecting private information, the security features viruses and other malware. For an added layer of protection/intrigue, Privacy Phone customers can change their phone number whenever and as often as they like. For added anonymity, Privacy Phone customers can pay in Bitcoin.

The Privacy Phone version of a Galaxy S2 runs $189 and comes with unlimited voice and text plus 500 MB of data free for three months. After that, the plan and all its promised encryption will run $10 monthly.

The Privacy Phone will operate like any other FreedomPop phone, using the device’s native dialer and messaging apps. The encryption application will run in the background and can be shut off by the user.

“Large carriers don’t have the flexibility, desire or creativity to invest in privacy. We don't agree with this approach and felt it was up to us to create a truly private mobile phone service at an affordable price,” Steven Sesar, COO at FreedomPop, said in a statement.

But since FreedomPop is an MVNO operating on Sprint, an operator that complies with legal requests for telephone data, how is FreedomPop protecting customer data?

Sesar said the reason FreedomPop can mask call data while big carriers like AT&T and Verizon aren’t is because FreedomPop is all IP-based, meaning it only sends data packets that, in turn, can be encrypted via VPN technology.

Similarly secure communications platforms have faced government action. Lavabit, the secure email service used by former NSA employee Edward Snowden, was forced to shut down to avoid handing over its encryption keys to the government. When asked if FreedomPop had considered a similar scenario stemming from a product like Privacy Phone, Sesar did not seem overly concerned.

“Our exposure is no different than any type of VPN product or direct consumer product that’s out there on the market today,” Sesar said.



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