An entertaining piece in the Wall Street Journal today describes the preferred mobile phone for Japanese philanderers. It’s an older Fujitsu model that the faithful get reconditioned to keep it running for three years and longer. Its main advantage is that you can conceal missed calls and other information from the casual observer, but to an untrained eye the fact that the phone is in stealth mode is undetectable.

Secure smart phone.jpgSuspicious significant others can therefore inspect the phone all they want, never see “missed call” from the “valued colleague at work” and never even know that the phone is set to hide information. Contrast that with newer “smarter” phones on which it’s immediately apparent that the owner is concealing information, and you know why people in Japan go to such lengths to keep their old Fujitsus running.

This story reminded us of at least one other instance in which old phones are better phones. When we are asked to look (legally and ethically) at a smart phone today to see if there are texts or emails on it that could be helpful to our clients, we always have to tell them: if the phone is a Blackberry and the material’s been erased, it’s probably really gone.

Why is a Blackberry sometimes tougher than other phones? Because other smartphones work more like other computers: when material is “deleted” it’s really just moved to a different part of the disk. Sometimes a search of “deleted space” will allow partial or full recovery of important information. But with a Blackberry, otherwise regarded as the preserve of techno-cavemen and supremely uncool lawyer types, once information’s deleted it’s really not there anymore.

Not that Blackberry data is unrecoverable. If you can (legally and ethically) get to the computer where someone has backed up their Blackberry, you can often find the backup file still on the computer even though the material was erased from the smartphone itself.

Another nice thing about Blackberries: their email is encrypted. Most of us don’t encrypt our normal email, but we really should. Email sits on the many intermediate servers between sender and recipient for long periods of time. Who knows who has access to it and how secure it is?  Wouldn’t it be nice to know that if an email from New York to Atlanta hopped six times before reaching its destination, someone at the intermediate stop in Baltimore trying to read your email got only gibberish he would need a supercomputer to make sense of?

If newer is not always better when it comes to wine, this can also be true when it comes to phones of people who care about security and secrecy.