Regardless of your position on the subject of government surveillance and monitoring, reading a report describing a secret software backdoor being baked in to a phone is more than a little unsettling. Unfortunately, that's exactly what was being said about YotaPhone 2 last week. Rostech CEO Sergey Chemezov was quoted as having knowledge of an FSB (Russian Intelligence Agency) backdoor into the dual-screen smartphone, which made it so Russian Intelligence could pull whatever they wanted from the device.
It turns out reality is a whole lot less interesting than the fiction readers have initially been lead to believe, at least that's what the folks who make YotaPhone 2 say.
There's a lot to like about YotaPhone 2, and now that the device is finally headed to the US there will be plenty of folks on T-Mobile and AT&T who get to discover that for themselves. Of the many features Yota Devices can brag about on this dual-screen device, a secret government backdoor isn't one of them. When we reached out to the company for an official statement, Managing Director Matthew Kelly offered a reasonable explanation.
Yota Devices has not provided the FSB or any other security service with a "backdoor" to the personal information of YotaPhone users. The quotes attributed to Sergey Chemezov, the CEO of Rostech, were taken out of context and also poorly translated. His reference to the FSB relates to existing, twenty-year-old legislation that requires phone companies in Russia to cooperate with investigations into criminality or threats to national security. This cooperation must follow a legal process and a court resolution, and it applies no differently to Yota Devices than to any other network, ISP or manufacturer (such as Apple or Samsung) who wishes to be part of the telecoms industry in Russia. It also does not affect any YotaPhone user outside of Russia.
YotaPhone 2 is subject to the same laws every other phone is subject to in the world, which makes sense. It doesn't mean the FSB, or any other government agency around the world, is allowed unfettered access to your personal information. At the end of the day, the version of Android running on YotaPhone 2 behaves the same way all the other do, so there's no need to worry.