RIM speaks out under fire from controlling governments

RIM said it wants equal treatment from industry regulators seeking access to customer data after India threatened to shut down some of its BlackBerry services because of concerns about security.

Regulators should not have more access to information on BlackBerry services than they are getting on similar services from other companies, RIM said in a statement yesterday in response to India’s 31 August deadline to resolve the security issue.

India is among a growing number of nations scrutinising BlackBerry services over concerns the devices may be used by terrorists or for other illegal activities because the device’s encryption prevents intelligence agencies from monitoring mail traffic, said a report on Bloomberg today. Some BlackBerry services may be shut down if RIM can’t come up with a solution, Home Ministry spokesman Onkar Kedia said yesterday.

“RIM assures its customers that it genuinely tries to be as cooperative as possible with governments in the spirit of supporting legal and national security requirements,” the company said. “Strong encryption is a fundamental commercial requirement for any country to attract and maintain international business.”

Saudi Arabia has already banned Blackberry’s instant messaging service, disrupting up to 700,000 accounts. Since then the dispute has moved on to other countries seeking to spy on their citizens’ communications.

In its statement, RIM said: “In response to the statement published today by the Government of India, and further to RIM’s Customer Update dated August 2, RIM wishes to provide this additional information to its customers. Although RIM cannot disclose confidential regulatory discussions that take place with any government, RIM assures its customers that it genuinely tries to be as cooperative as possible with governments in the spirit of supporting legal and national security requirements, while also preserving the lawful needs of citizens and corporations. RIM has drawn a firm line by insisting that any capabilities it provides to carriers for “lawful” access purposes be limited by four main principles:

“1)The carriers’ capabilities be limited to the strict context of lawful access and national security requirements as governed by the country’s judicial oversight and rules of law.

“2) The carriers’ capabilities must be technology and vendor neutral, allowing no greater access to BlackBerry consumer services than the carriers and regulators already impose on RIM’s competitors and other similar communications technology companies.

“3) No changes to the security architecture for BlackBerry Enterprise Server customers since, contrary to any rumours, the security architecture is the same around the world and RIM truly has no ability to provide its customers’ encryption keys. Also driving RIM’s position is the fact that strong encryption is a fundamental commercial requirement for any country to attract and maintain international business anyway and similarly strong encryption is currently used pervasively in traditional VPNs on both wired and wireless networks in order to protect corporate and government communications.

“4) RIM maintains a consistent global standard for lawful access requirements that does not include special deals for specific countries,” RIM concluded on the matter.