BlackBerry KEY2 offers greater privacy in a data-compromised age

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In a world full a nude photo leaks and stolen data, BlackBerry’s latest phone may be the answer to living a more secure existence online.

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The Waterloo, Ont.-based technology company, in partnership with TCL Communication, unveiled the BlackBerry KEY2 on Thursday, a phone that is designed to help users’ safeguard their files and information. Senior product manager Patricia Querin told Postmedia Network in a briefing ahead of the phone’s debut that while their devices are already known for security, with the KEY2, BlackBerry also wanted to focus on privacy.

“It’s a hot topic,” she said. “With Facebook and all these things happening, it’s becoming much more relevant to consumers. So we’re trying to give them some tools to understand what’s happening on their product. And then if they want to take action or change something, they can do that.”

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First and foremost, of course, the KEY2 is a keyboard-centric phone. Very similar in look to its predecessor, the new phone’s 35-key backlit physical keyboard is somewhat more tactile and its keys are 20% larger. Like the 2017 KEYone, the fingerprint sensor is built into the space bar and the keyboard doubles as a trackpad. You can also map the letter keys to two different apps or actions each, giving you up to 52 shortcuts. A new “speed key” on the device lets you launch theses shortcuts from within other apps.

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The KEY2 incorporates security software both old and new. To start, the phone includes DTEK which monitors the phone’s settings and apps. First introduced with the Priv in 2015, it now includes a proactive health check feature that lets you scan your device for possible vulnerabilities. The app then gives recommendations based on what it finds, such as alerting you to set a password, if you don’t have one already.

In DTEK, you can view each app’s permissions on what it can access, such as the phone’s location or microphone, and shows you how often the apps access these things.

It will also tell you whether the app was running in the foreground or background when it accessed the information, Querin explained. So if you don’t like what it’s doing, you can turn off that app’s permissions.

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Jason Gerdon, director of global communications for BlackBerry, added it’s about having control over privacy. You might be fine with a ride-share app tracking your location while using it but not afterwards.

“If you want to have that manual control, you can literally go in and say ‘OK, I’m done using the ride share app…I’ll turn this back on at 5 o’clock when I’m leaving the office,’” he explained.

In addition to manual control, DTEK includes a more intuitive feature called, “sensitive permissions.” Out of the box, any app that tries to access the microphone will send you an alert but you can configure other sensitive permissions as well — by app or across the board. Alternatively, you can turn the feature off altogether if you find the warnings themselves too intrusive.

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In additional security, the KEY2 includes the Locker app, which is essentially a secure folder for storing more private content — both files and apps. To access the content within it, you need to unlock it with the fingerprint sensor or PIN, what have you.

Of course, there are a variety of reasons you might want to use Locker but one big use would probably be for photos, especially ones of the more intimate variety. And you can save photos directly from the camera. If you shoot a picture in the camera app using the fingerprint sensor, it will store it in the Locker app, Querin said.

It will also not back the image up to the cloud, which saves you the fear of the image being hacked and leaked online.

The Locker also includes the Firefox Focus, which allows you to discretely browse the Internet, without having your searches shared across your Google account as Chrome does, she explained.

Running on Android 8.1 (Oreo), the KEY2 uses the 2.2 GHz octa-core Qualcomm SDM660 processor, has 6 GB of RAM, is available with either 64 GB or 128 GB of storage and has a microSD card slot.

It has a 4.5-inch, 1,620×1,080-pixel display and a sturdy aluminum body and 3,500 mAh battery promising up to two days of power. It comes with two 12 MP rear cameras and a 8 MP selfie camera.

The BlackBerry KEY2 will globally ship later this month with a suggested retail price of $829 here in Canada.

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Originally posted 2018-06-07 14:25:02.