Boy that’s a headline I’ll bet you didn’t think you’d see but I’m not talking about Smartphone sales I’m talking about something that should be far more important to all of us than it apparently is. The research division of Thomson Reuters has been looking at patent trends and just released a report and both Google and Apple are on the bottom of one list and Google is big on another you should be aware of. That is the patents being taken out for call monitoring (spying on you) and the patents being taken out for securing calls and communications so you can maintain your privacy.
On the monitoring side companies like Ericsson, Samsung, Google, and LG are very prevalent but you don’t see Blackberry at all, on the cellular privacy side what is really interesting is that Google again shows up as a small player (Google has always been a bit hypocritical, for instance they want to ban everyone else’s Drones, but not their own) but you don’t see Apple at all (which is kind of weird given how private Steve Jobs was and Tim Cook is) but you see Blackberry towards the top of the chart massively ahead of everyone but ZTE (out of China).
Let’s talk about our screwed up priorities.
Fun vs. Safety
When the iPhone first launched I went on record calling it a horrid phone. The reason was that I’d been testing screen phones and they had one huge disadvantage against the keyboard phones that Palm and Blackberry (then called Research in Motion) sold. You couldn’t blind type on them.
You see with a keyboard phone you can get proficient enough so that you don’t have to look at them to type on them and I’d observed a lot of adults and children typing on them while driving and concluded that if the market moved from keyboard phone to screen phones we’d have a lot more dead kids (and adults, but kids are known for having horrid impulse control).
I felt strongly that the market shouldn’t adopt a design that would be deadly to children regardless of how attractive and fun it was. I knew, based on what had happened with the iPod that Apple would be hugely successful with whatever design they fielded and thought a design that killed kids, or anyone for that matter, was a really horrid idea.
But here we are and we have now we have laws we didn’t have then about texting while driving and it is still one of the leading causes of accidents. As adults we screwed up.
Fun vs. Security
Back then I wasn’t thinking of security or the ability to hack into these devices and listen in on calls or collect messages. That was because we’d just come from an analog world and the new digital technology was already vastly more secure than what we’d left behind. Since then governments, including our own, have become really active in monitoring and spying on us.
No longer is Windows the least secure platform we are using (Windows has actually gotten surprisingly secure over the last decade or so) it is our cell phone which we may spend more time on and which could be used as a remote spying tool against us without our knowledge (McAfee one year showcased they could remotely take over an iPhone and cause an Android phone to overheat till catastrophic failure and a variety of folks have showcased that apps that take over the microphone and camera illicitly are common now). Basically these things have become a window we don’t think about into our private personal and private lives.
No group knows this better than celebrities who are compromised almost constantly now and politicians, executives, and people working in secure areas are likely compromised even more it’s just that the folks who do that don’t like to advertise what they’ve done.
Where Blackberry Leads
This is where Blackberry puts almost all of their effort, earlier this week they bought yet another company focused on keeping you secure, WatchDox, out of Israel (where some of the best security software in the world is written) which does secure enterprise File Sync and Share so those private documents and pictures you have remain under your control. This firm typically sells to large companies and government agencies.
Currently Blackberry sells services that will run and help secure both iOS and Android but their own platform remains the most secure and their keyboard phones the safest.
Wrapping Up: What’s this say about us?
I think our preference for what is pretty and fun over what is productive and safe is telling. It tells us our priorities are often really screwed up particularly when it comes to our kids. In any case where Blackberry leads and Apple clearly lags is in security and safety and Google’s actually doing an impressive amount of work on technologies that observe and monitor us which likely should concern us even more (at least Apple isn’t going in that direction).
In the end only Blackberry, and ZTE apparently, according to this Thomas Reuters report are doing what we should prefer and investing heavily in our privacy and safety yet we prefer Apple, who isn’t doing anything is this regard, and Google who apparently is actually investing against us. Something to think about over the weekend.