Last Thursday, Bloomberg reported that Verizon introduced Verizon Voice Cypher with the encryption company Cellcrypt. The product offers business and government customers end-to-end encryption for voice calls on iOS, Android, or BlackBerry devices equipped with a special app. The software provides secure communications for people speaking on devices with the app, regardless of their wireless carrier, and it can also connect to an organization's secure phone system.
Cellcrypt and Verizon both acknowledged that law enforcement agencies will be able to access communications that take place over Voice Cypher, so long as they're able to prove that there's a legitimate law enforcement reason for doing so. Now there's a product people will avoid like the plague.
Phone carriers like Verizon are required by U.S. law to build networks that can be wiretapped. But the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act requires phone carriers to decrypt communications for the government only if they have designed their technology to make it possible to do so. If Verizon and Cellcrypt had structured their encryption so that neither company had the information to decrypt the calls, they would not have been breaking the law.
Other companies have designed their encryption in exactly that way, including AT&T, which offers encrypted phone service for business customers. Apple and Android recently began protecting content stored on users' phones in a way that would keep the tech companies from being able to comply with requests from law enforcement.
Verizon's service, with a monthly price of $45 per device, isn't targeting individual buyers and won't be offered to average consumers in the near future.
But Verizon's partner, Cellcrypt, looks upon selling to large organizations as the first step toward bringing down the price before eventually offering a consumer-level encryption service. "At the end of the day, we'd love to have this be a line item on your Verizon bill," says Cellcrypt's Seth Polansky.
Good luck with that Mr. Polansky. The decision to let the government have access is among the worst business decisions I've run across. If you can't keep the government out, your competitors which do will leave you eating their dust.
Hat tip to Dave Ries.
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