Verizon Wireless wants to make it easier for customers to have private phone calls without worrying about who’s listening in on the conversation — unless that “who” is law enforcement.
Last week, the company announced a partnership with Cellcrypt for a new app called “Verizon Voice Cypher” that will allow end-to-end encrypted phone calls for Apple, Android and BlackBerry smartphone users. The app allows encrypted calls to be made to other smartphone users with the app, even if the recipient of the call isn’t a Verizon customer.
Verizon is the latest company to make a push into the post-Snowden security-conscious communications market. Earlier this year, AT&T released an application that does much of what Verizon Voice Cypher offers. Software companies Apple and Google also announced phones running their operating system (iOS and Android respectively) would also encrypt communications by default.
But unlike AT&T, Apple and Google, Verizon has left one very big hole: The ability for law enforcement to eavesdrop on communications.
Cellcrypt rejects the notion that allowing law enforcement to snoop on seemingly secure conversations.
“It’s only creating a weakness for government agencies,” company executive Seth Polansky told Businessweek. “Just because a government access option exists, it doesn’t mean other companies can access it.”
Tim Petsky, a senior project manager with Verizon, said companies may still be drawn to the product because of the recent number of security incidents targeting enterprises. “Enterprise customers have been asking about ways to secure their communications and up until this point, we didn’t have a solution,” Petsky said.
Verizon Voice Cypher will cost $45 a month, and will be targeted specifically to business customers at launch. There are no current plans to make it available to individual customers, though it hasn’t been ruled out for the future.
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There are some consumer-driven encryption solutions on the market: The app Silent Circle offers secure phone calls between iPhone and Android smartphones starting at $13 a month. The company’s encryption services are built-in to the Blackphone, a $620 Android-powered smartphone (with a tablet on the way) that emphasizes security above everything else.
For those who want to send pictures or texts, Wickr is a free solution that makes the promise that “no conversations can be tracked or monitored.” Wickr’s software is available for both iPhones and Androids as well as Windows and Macintosh computers.