| | Government Hands in BlackBerry
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BlackBerry manufacturer Research In Motion (RIM) has been in the news lately due to government fears of terrorists utilizing the company’s ultra-secure communications platform as a means of communicating outside the government’s ability to monitor them. India pointed to the use of internet enabled devices like RIM’s BlackBerries as the Pakistani terrorists preferred method of communication with their leaders in the 2008 attack in Mumbai. Since this attack India, the United Arab Emirates, and a few other countries have demanded BlackBerry communications be made available so that the data flow can be monitored for terrorist activity. This presents a unique dilemma for RIM, as they alone employ a complex method of data encryption whereby outgoing user data is routed through secure company servers before being made accessible to the end recipient. This process has undoubtedly aided BlackBerry in establishing themselves as the preferred communications device of businesses worried about security. If, however, they are made to lower their security standards there is little doubt the company’s bottom line would suffer as businesses look for secure alternatives.
The elephant in the room seems to be quite a simple question. Does blocking BlackBerries from unmonitored communication really make any government safer? Surely, it does not. There will always be ways of communicating without being detected. While an all-out ban on Blackberry might slow down any terrorist communication it is only a matter of time before Apple, Google, or Microsoft utilize a third party application to encrypt communication. The ban is analogous to the anti-gun argument currently raging in Europe. As the argument goes, if you ban the public’s right to own a gun you have not made the streets any safer. All you have done it taken away people’s ability to defend themselves, as criminals typically do not respect the law and will continue to have no problem procuring weapons. My point is there will always be some method of communication that the government cannot monitor. RIM and their BlackBerries, it would seem, have been singled out by country after country unfairly for a questionable end. Thus far the company has managed to either delay or stall the ban in India by proposing various solutions to the government. Only time will tell if an agreement can be reached. The company released an official statement in early August saying, “RIM maintains a consistent global standard for lawful access requirements that does not include special deals for specific countries.” India and the other countries seeking a ban certainly have their work cut out for them as negotiations proceed in the weeks ahead. It is our hope that free and open communication allowing for the exchange of ideas and information does not end up the victim of this worldwide campaign.