BlackBerry a Security Threat? Only to Governments

The story “Tata Launches BlackBerry Service in India” said that the Indian government objected to launching BlackBerry service in that country. Why? The government wanted RIM, creator of BlackBerry, to provide access to all communications from BlackBerry devices to the Indian version of the FBI.

To their credit RIM said “no way” because the service has been designed to exclude any third party, including RIM, from reading the encrypted transmissions. That's the kind of no-brainer feature large corporations demand for communications, and RIM is right to build that in. They're also right to reject any government's attempt to use them to spy on citizens and non-citizens using the product. More companies should show that backbone. Is RIM more resolute because they're Canadian? American companies seem to comply with every Big Brother Government edict, so double hooray for RIM. Let's hope the mention of “continuing talks” with the government don't lead to RIM caving on their encryption issues.

Of course, my first thought about security and BlackBerries in India was that so many are lost. Want info? Steal (or excuse me, find) a BlackBerry and read the messages. Few people actually use passwords or other authentication tools on portables, especially when they are also cell phones. You can't answer a phone in time if you have to put in a password for every call.

India, of course, rolled out the terrorist threat to force RIM to comply, as do all governments (including ours in the US). They have some reason. London's Daily Mail earlier this week ran the article “Taliban Using Skype Phones to Dodge MI6.” Yes, Skype has always been encrypted between endpoints. This has been a problem for years for governments wanting to eavesdrop on citizens.

Are the technology companies unpatriotic by denying easy spying by the government on their customers? Maybe on one hand, but on the other, many tech companies are building new and even more intrusive data mining software to track every transaction made by every citizen. Those are the tools that shred individual privacy, but they also do a much better job of tracking terrorist's activities. So we're in a Big Brother world no matter what, RIM and Skype notwithstanding.

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