Despite just announcing a new phone, it seems that Research in Motion is going into a world of hurt. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia have already said that the BlackBerry service represents a security risk, and now Lebanon, India and Indonesia are joining in on the anti-Berry party.
They’re saying that BlackBerry can be a risk because of its potential use for militant forces, terrorists, and other similar persons bent on our destruction. Because the government has no way of monitoring these services, due to RIM’s high level of security, BlackBerry services are almost a safe haven for criminals.
Lebanon hasn’t formally banned BlackBerry just yet, but they are “studying the issue from all sides” and they’re “discussing this with the concerned administrations and ministries.” Shutting down the enterprise level security in these countries isn’t really an option for RIM, since the corporations that work there rely on its reliability and security.
The United Arab Emirates asserts that with the encryption, the BlackBerry violates the telecommunications regulations of the United Arab Emirates and will block key BB services starting October 11th.
Saudia Arabia plans to turn off the BlackBerry juice as of today. Lebanon announced yesterday that the BB system will have to be assessed in the name of national security.
This is a bit ridiculous, having a company chastised because of their system being too secure. If its insecure everyone complains about its vulnerabilities, now if its too secure the governments complain because they cannot spy or “monitor terrorists”. I’m afraid I have to side with RIM on this one. Will this still allow government employees of said countries to use the security benefits of the BlackBerry, just not its citizens?
India would like a communications center setup for BlackBerry network monitoring or interception of messages. We will have to see how this all pans out, but there are a lot of upset countries out there, and even a bigger upset company. “If they can’t deal with the Internet, they should shut it off.” RIM’s co-CEO Michael Lazaridis told The Wall Street Journal.
“This is about the Internet,” Lazaridis told the Journal. “Everything on the Internet is encrypted. This is not a BlackBerry-only issue. If they can’t deal with the Internet, they should shut it off.”
And after all this, the U.S. and Canadian governments are stepping in.
“There are issues attached to freedom of information, the flow of information, the use of technology. We are in touch with these governments,” P J Crowley, the U.S. State Department spokesman told reporters at a daily news briefing this morning.
After the Indian government asked RIM to allow them to monitor the Blackberry services, Crowley responded. “We’re going to try to understand what their concerns are, the nature of the ongoing negotiations that they have with this particular company. And then you’ve touched on that there are number of countries that are in the midst of these negotiations and we’ll see what the implications are.”
“So it is not about any one device. It’s not about any one network. We’re trying to see how we can make these technologies more broadly available and they can be utilized in a variety of different ways to help build institutions, accountability, and other trends in key countries,” Crowley added.
“Canada has been working closely with the officials at Research In Motion as well as with governments on the ground to assist them in dealing with these challenges,” Trade Minister Peter Van Loan told reporters in Ottawa this morning.
RIM’s BlackBerry messenger is the only smartphone messaging system whose traffic is soley managed by the company.
With RIM’s Lazaridis denying any third party access to monitor communications running through BlackBerry enterprise servers, it’s going to be interesting to see how it all pans out.
Update: The Saudi Arabian government has turned off the BlackBerry data services for 700,000 Saudi’s. This shutdown occurred at 4AM EST today. RIM housing a data center in Saudi Arabia would allow the service to be activated, right now all data is routed to the Canadian data center. [Bangkok Post]
Additional reporting by Fabrizio Pilato