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    ZDNet: BlackBerry fueled riots put core privacy principles at risk

    ZDNet reports on problems Research in Motion (RIM) is facing in the UK amid the riots. It’s the latest problem that the Canadian maker of BlackBerry smartphones and mobile devices has faced internationally. For months, RIM has been dealing with the threat that its BlackBerry smartphones would be banned in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, India and other countries because of security concerns — BlackBerries promise a “secure” e-mail service. Some foreign governments claimed that the Canadian company didn’t comply with regulations concerning government access to smartphone information. The UAE had dropped its threats to ban BlackBerry cellphone, but RIM had faced problems in negotiations with India, with the possibility of a ban for its products in the country.

    Now, ZDNet reports:

    BlackBerry users in London have been taking to the secure Messenger application to organize riots across the British capital. Over the last four days of disorder, violence has spread to other major cities — including Birmingham, Bristol, Nottingham and Manchester.

    To be clear: this isn’t RIM’s fault. Just as people blame cyber-bullying on technology, it is the people behind the screens that are to blame.

    Though RIM promised to assist the authorities wherever possible in tracking down those hiding behind the seemingly secure BlackBerry Messenger application, the Canadian-based company needs to maintain its security core focus. […]

    RIM does not hold or have access to the encryption keys offered by its enterprise software. Police, law enforcement and intelligence services can ask until they are blue in the face, but RIM cannot hand over something it simply doesn’t have.

    However, as BlackBerry Messenger is a hosted service, run and controlled by RIM directly, the company can hand over this consumer led, albeit encrypted data, to police.

    In reality, Research in Motion does not have a dilemma at all.

    The only consideration it needs to take into account is how it can continue to market itself as a secure communications platform, when ultimately it is still vulnerable to the laws of the land.

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