British MP Calls for Temporary Suspension of BlackBerry Messenger Due to Riots

by Jordan Richardson on August 10, 2011

We’ve often covered the intersection of life and telecommunications, whether products or companies, here at The Telecom Blog. As world events take place, the role of telecommunications becomes ever present in how history happens. Such is again the case with the riots in the United Kingdom.

It seems in this instance, the security of the BlackBerry Messenger service is helping criminals outwit police.

“This is one of the reasons why unsophisticated criminals are outfoxing an otherwise sophisticated police force,” tweeted David Lammy, Member of Parliament for Tottenham. “BBM is different as it is encrypted and police can’t access it.”

The riots began in Tottenham on Saturday. Leaving a deeper examination of the cause and evolution aside to the news sites and analysts, social media and BlackBerry Messenger soon took on a role of certain import in the spread of the rioting. As shops and cars were set on fire by disenfranchised youth presumably perturbed at not having any future, the tools of the trade became today’s tech goodies and gadgets.

The rioters apparently use BlackBerry Messenger because it’s encrypted and features more privacy controls than traditional social networking avenues. Clean-up efforts, meanwhile, are turning to Twitter to generate broad support for mopping up the mess after the thuggery from the nights before.

It is indeed hard to take seriously the horde of young rioters, the apparent abandoned and poor of the United Kingdom, using their modern implements to arrange to meet friends at the next store that’s to be looted.

Research In Motion issued a statement on Monday suggesting that they were cooperating with local telecommunications authorities and law enforcement, but there was no word at press time as to if they’d handed over any chat logs or other pieces of information.

Predictably, RIM’s BlackBerry blog was hacked on Tuesday by a group calling themselves Teampoison.

So now RIM faces some options in the U. K., especially if the vandalism and rioting continues. With police presence heavy in London, things appear to be slowing down on that front. Rioting is moving on to other cities and locales, however, and that could leave the Waterloo company with a decision to make. They have notoriously granted government access to their services in the past, so any move in that direction wouldn’t be without precedent.

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Written by: Jordan Richardson. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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