Silent Circle announced today that it has raised $30 million in a new round of funding led by Ross Perot Jr and Cain Capital LLC that it will use to build on strong demand for its Android-based Blackphone, a smartphone expressly designed to improve security for everyday users. Silent Circle has also added Ross Perot Jr. and former British Telecom CEO Peter Bonfield to its Advisory Board and made former Dell exec Anurag Jain vice chairman.
Silent Circle products available for iPhone and Android
“Awareness of global privacy threats is irrevocably affecting individuals’ and businesses’ behavior and driving worldwide demand for Silent Circle’s unmatched secure communication technology, calling plans and Blackphone devices,” said Silent Circle CEO Mike Janke. “We now have the resources to meet the demand for our encrypted mobile voice, video, secure file transfer and international secure calling plans – all available for iOS and Android.”
Silent Circle first came to national attention when it shut down its encrypted email service and destroyed their servers so that they couldn’t be forced to be complicit in National Security Agency snooping by the FISA court. The company risked the ire of the US government (and possibly customers who lost important emails without notice), but it also proved that it is willing to stand up for its customers’ privacy.
Silent Circle moving to Europe after NSA harassment
While the email service is still defunct, Silent Circle cooperated with Geeksphone to develop a secure smartphone that could encrypt text messages and phone calls, meeting a bigger market response than their email service ever had. To avoid a second round of government strong-arming, Silent Circles now has servers in Canada and Switzerland and it is moving its headquarters to Switzerland to take advantage of the country’s strong privacy protection and tradition of neutrality (it still maintains an office in the US). Any tech company that claims to protect user privacy and security within the US has an immediate credibility problem, and this could just be the first of many such tech firms to set up shop abroad because of NSA spying.
By mentioning “criminal, state-sponsored, commercial, and internet-wide privacy threats” the implication is that using a Blackphone will protect your privacy from the NSA and other highly capable attackers, but the company never actually makes that claim. A combination of bundled security software, fast updates in response to new threats, and clear information on how apps effect users’ privacy can improve security, but the company isn’t promising something that’s impossible to guarantee.