Seeking to capitalize on the country’s tensions with the U.S., a smartphone that prevents Google and other apps from snooping on users is to be introduced by a Russian security company run by Kaspersky Lab’s co-founder.
The Taiga phone has been designed to run its own Android-based firmware that lets apps run on the device but stops them from collecting data and the phone has been designed by Moscow-based InfoWatch Group and has been named after desolated forests in Siberia. Complete control over what apps will work on the device and what content the user can access or share by administrators such as a corporate IT department is also allowed by the phone through a built-in agent that the phone also possess.
“Most smartphone apps collect certain data on users and send it to outside servers,” said Natalya Kaspersky, head of InfoWatch. “When people use personal phones at work, their corporate emails, documents and job-related photos come under threat of being — maliciously or accidentally — leaked to third parties.
The rising concerns in Russia over user data collected by U.S.-based companies such as Google and Facebook and the consequent of demand for means to combat that in the country is what InfoWatch is betting on to succeed. Employees of Russian companies co-owned by the state are the ones who would be the first to be delivered the first of the 50,000 Taiga phones that would be made in China. Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates, where InfoWatch has opened offices are also among the potential markets for the phones.
Before her divorce from partner Eugene Kaspersky, Kaspersky co-founded anti-virus producer Kaspersky Lab and ran it till then. Based on allegations of the firm’s alleged ties with the Russian government, President Donald Trump recently restricted the use of Kaspersky Lab products by U.S. government entities. Kaspersky works in a Kremlin-backed working group on information-technology sovereignty and now runs her own business also.
Amid geopolitical tensions with the U.S. over Ukraine and Syria, Russia’s reliance on companies such as Microsoft Corp. and International Business Machines Corp. is being sought to be reduced by Vladimir Putin. A local Russian TV channel this year ran a comedy series about an American spy at Russia’s largest natural gas producer Gazprom PJSC and U.S. fugitive Edward Snowden, who revealed that the National Security Agency had access to Google’s data centers worldwide has been provided asylum by Russia.
(Adapted from Bloomberg)