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RIM posts BlackBerry spying 'rules,' wants equal treatment

updated 01:40 pm EDT, Fri August 13, 2010

RIM guidelines explain BlackBerry snoop limits

RIM today posted a set of guidelines that it said would dictate the limits of how countries such as India could monitor its services. The BlackBerry maker would refuse to grant access beyond what's legally required by a local government. Any monitoring would similarly have to be "technology and vendor neutral" and wouldn't grant any special access to a BlackBerry that isn't present on an iPhone or similar device.

The terms further echo RIM's hard lines on technical abilities and consistency. It will refuse any changes to how BlackBerry Enterprise Server works as the nature of the system prevents special access. Since all data is the same and puts the encryption keys only in the hands of those involved in a conversation, RIM can't offer a backdoor or treat servers differently in a given country.

RIM won't make special deals for countries, it reiterated.

The statements contradict rumors today [sub. required] that RIM will have a special exception in place for India before its August 31 deadline or for other countries requesting spying access, such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE. An anonymous Indian official had insisted a RIM team would be visiting next week to test a system that would work around the restrictions.

Combined, the guidelines and pressure from foreign governments could lead to a major setback for RIM's attempts to hold on to market share. Combined, India and the Middle Eastern states account for millions of current and potential customers that would either see a major reduction in BlackBerry serivces or would have to switch to Android, iPhone or another platform which doesn't automatically encrypt most data. RIM in its new rules and previous statements has signaled that it may be willing to sacrifice these markets as the principle of protecting confidential data was more important than allowing monitoring for security fears.

"Strong encryption is a fundamental commercial requirement for any country to attract and maintain international business anyway," it said. "Similarly strong encryption is currently used pervasively in traditional [virtual private networks] on both wired and wireless networks in order to protect corporate and government communications."

By Electronista Staff


  1. ricardogf

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Jan 2003



    First of all, who the f*** is RIM to dictate what sovereign countries can do? Their "guidelines" are sketchy at best and simply refer to local carriers, nothing else. If the government tells them to do this or that, they shall do it or leave.

    So they'd better shut up and abide by local laws instead of trying to play the innocent self-righteous player; and don't even start with that BS about "non-democratic" jurisdictions...India is the world's biggest democracy.

    Still in doubt? Go check the US's "PATRIOT" Act and similar gibberish before spitting out hypocrisy.

  1. cube55

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Jun 2010


    why so angry

    Why is the previous commenter so angry. You should be happy that companies like RIM are standing up for privacy. RIM is asking for equal treatment, not special treatment.

  1. CaptainHaddock

    Grizzled Veteran

    Joined: Apr 2004


    Ricardogf is a dolt

    Blackberry should stand up more for people's liberties and privacy, not less. These governments are all bluffing anyway; if Blackberry deactivates their services, the thousands of politicians and officials who use Blackberries will come crawling on their knees asking to turn it on again.

    PS India may be a "democracy", but so what? It's just one more highly corrupt regime who thinks they are the masters of their citizens.

  1. que_ball

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Aug 2000


    BIS vs BES

    RIM keeps telling people about the great security of their service but they are talking about Blackberry Enterprise Server (BES) where the server is run and controlled by a corporate IT department and running on their own network.

    Most consumer use the Blackberry Internet Service (BIS) which is a server run by RIM and there are regional BIS server datacentres all over the world.

    The compromise that RIM will do is put a BIS datacentre in countries that require legal access and then the country can monitor the unencrypted data coming out of that local datacentre.

    BES = Customer controls the encryption and everything uses the customers internet connection
    BIS = RIM controls the encryption and uses the RIM internet connection.

    RIM is telling the truth, but not the whole truth.
    Fact is the criminals / terrorists are signing up for cheap plans, probably prepaid, and those can only work with BIS server. Lots of things are encrypted on BIS but they do have to pass through that server.

    So if you want the complete security of a Blackberry you need to be running your own BES server. (BES Express is free but requires Exchange server)

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