BlackBerry bites back at governments

There sure are a lot of countries who see technology as a threat these days …

Suggestion that Indian government could be granted access to data to prevent ban ‘unfounded’, says Research in Motion

The company behind BlackBerry smartphones, Research in Motion, has rejected suggestions that it might allow the Indian government special access to its users’ information.

India was among the countries to warn that it could block some BlackBerry services after the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia both implemented bans, citing security issues. Indian security agencies had raised concerns about the devices’ encrypted email service.

It was reported that, in response, RIM could strike a deal to give the Indian government access to data passed via email and instant messaging on BlackBerrys in the country. But the company has now moved to quell customer fears about the possibility of their personal data being monitored.

A press statement released by the troubled phone maker said the idea that it would allow any government special access to data on customers’ handsets was “unfounded”.

RIM said: “In recent days there has been a range of commentary, speculation, and misrepresentation regarding this solution and we want to take the opportunity to set the record straight. There is only one BlackBerry enterprise solution available to our customers around the world and it remains unchanged in all of the markets we operate in.

“RIM cooperates with all governments with a consistent standard and the same degree of respect. Any claims that we provide, or have ever provided, something unique to the government of one country that we have not offered to the governments of all countries, are unfounded.”

RIM’s devices, which have proved popular among corporate customers around the world, offer data protection services different from those on most other mobile devices, encrypting data and processing it in a variety of operational centres outside local jurisdictions.

The company said it could not and would not compromise the security of its customers’ devices: “RIM has spent over a decade building a very strong security architecture to meet our enterprise customers’ strict security requirements around the world. The BlackBerry enterprise solution was designed to preclude RIM, or any third party, from reading encrypted information under any circumstances since RIM does not store or have access to the encrypted data.

“RIM cannot accommodate any request for a copy of a customer’s encryption key, since at no time does RIM, or any wireless network operator or any third party, ever possess a copy of the key. This means that customers of the BlackBerry enterprise solution can maintain confidence in the integrity of the security architecture without fear of compromise.”

Nick Jones, an analyst at Gartner, said the impact of any prospective ban on RIM in the Middle East would be minimal, estimating that the region accounted for less than 1% of BlackBerry sales by volume.

“It is more important for RIM to have a secure network than it is to buckle under government pressure,” he said. “People trust BlackBerry. It is the most secure mobile consumer device you can buy. If it gave in, the impact on sales would be small and the impact on reputation would be large.” © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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