BlackBerry-maker Research in Motion (RIM) has vowed to “work cooperatively with all appropriate authorities” in SA but has warned it cannot decrypt the communications of its business customers who use its BlackBerry Enterprise Server product.
The company, responding to remarks on Monday by deputy communications minister Obed Bapela that government is considering allowing law enforcement agencies to get access — through court orders — to the records of people using the popular BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) service, says it complies with privacy laws and the Sim card registration law known as Rica.
Responding to questions from TechCentral, RIM says there can be “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”.
The company defends this position, saying strong encryption is a “fundamental commercial requirement” for attracting and keeping customers. Similarly strong encryption is used in other networks, it says.
“Lawful access is a common requirement in countries around the world,” it says. “We adhere to our lawful access principles in order to balance the legitimate privacy requirements of customers with the legitimate requirements of law enforcement agencies and regulators.”
The company says telecommunications operators “must 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”. In other words, if there is legislation to support the interception of messages, RIM must comply.
Also, carriers must allow “no greater access to BlackBerry consumer services than the carriers and regulators already impose on RIM’s competitors and other similar communications technology companies”.
“RIM maintains a consistent global standard for lawful access requirements that does not include special deals for specific countries.”
Bapela said on Monday that government wants to allow the SA Police Service to get access to encrypted BBM messages, but only through court orders, because “a lot of criminality” is happening through the service.
“We might have to follow Britain and Saudi Arabia to say we need to have [access to] a decryption system if crimes are committed [using the BlackBerry service].”
Bapela later clarified that government was not targeting the BlackBerry platform specifically. He also said there had not yet been any discussions with RIM about the issue. — Craig Wilson, TechCentral
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