InfoWatch Group, a Russian security company, has introduced a smartphone that prevents apps from collecting your personal data. The Taiga phone is intended to keep apps from tracking any user activity, especially any work-related emails, documents and photos, but broadly prevents any app from collecting or sending usage data. Apps like Gmail – which is known for scanning email text to power ads – can be used on the Taiga phone, but the app will not be able to collect or report data.
The phone runs on Android, it is a forked version designed to run in tandem with InfoWatch-created firmware. The first 50,000 Taiga phones are being delivered to employees of Russian companies co-owned by the state.
The Taiga, which gets its name from the boreal snow forest terrain of Siberia and Canada, is just the latest example of the technological cold war that has emerged between the U.S. and Russia. Just over two weeks ago, the U.S. government banned software from the Moscow-based security firm Kaspersky Lab, citing alleged ties to the Russian government. Natalya Kaspersky, co-founder and previous CEO of the Kaspersky Lab, is now President of InfoWatch Group.
And last November, the Kremlin-backed a plan to replace all Microsoft software in government offices with Russian equivalents, which was followed by a ban on the Microsoft-owned LinkedIn. InfoWatch recently opened offices in Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates, so the Taiga may appear in these countries soon.