RIM Buckles to Foreign Pressure as Indonesia Joins the List of Blackberry Haters

by Matt Klassen on August 10, 2010

While this story is getting a fair bit of coverage here at TheTelecomblog, the latest news comes so fast and furious that its hard to keep up. 

As the international controversy surrounding Research in Motion and its apparently ultra-secure Blackberry devices increases—with Indonesia now joining the increasingly long list of companies threatening to ban the Blackberry—the Canadian-based mobile powerhouse finds itself in a tough spot; capitulate to the demands of the growing list of disgruntled totalitarian regimes or lose out on some of the most lucrative burgeoning mobile markets left in the world.

But despite the threats of embargos and bans levied against the Blackberry, up until recently RIM’s position has remained unwavering:

The BlackBerry enterprise solution was designed to preclude RIM or any third party, from reading encrypted information under any circumstances, since RIM does not store or have access to the encrypted data. Any claims that we provide, or have ever provided, something unique to the government of one country that we have not offered to the governments of all countries are unfounded.

Oh wait, did they just say “unfounded”? I’m sure what RIM spokespeople meant to say was “absolutely credible”.

With RIM’s shares taking a veritable noise dive in response to this ongoing Middle East security snafu, I knew it would be just a matter of time before RIM found a way to appease the various governments around the world that have joined this little fight. I mean, with the Middle East and Indonesia being two of the largest untapped mobile smartphone markets, RIM really didn’t have a choice to make in the matter.

As our very own blogger Jordan Richardson revealed yesterday, RIM has reached a tentative agreement with Saudi Arabia to place a Blackberry server within the country, allowing the government to regulate and monitor all texts, emails, and other messaging relating services users would have on the Blackberry within the country, one that I wouldn’t be surprised to see RIM signing with all the countries in question.

For its part, RIM maintains that its security encryption on the Blackberry remains intact, but placing a server within the borders of the country will allow officials to have unrestricted access to messages as that information passes through the server, at which time it is unencrypted for sorting and delivery.

But was this really the only choice for RIM? I will admit that there have been companies that have taken on countries before; one needs only to look at Google and its ongoing interactions with China earlier this year, but with a company like RIM, I doubt it could afford to wage such a large scale battle.

The unfortunate thing,, as Richardson notes, is that aside from the invasion of privacy Saudi Arabian Blackberry users will now enjoy this decision sets a dangerous precedent for how cellphone companies and countries interact. As Bruce Schneier, an author and chief security technology officer at British telecommunications operator BT writes, ”Now that they’re [RIM] doing it [allowing access to Blackberry’s encryption] for small, oppressive countries…everyone is going to ask for it.”

Yikes, did anyone else feel a chill run up their spine?

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca >. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com > by: RSS >, Twitter >, Identi.ca >, or Friendfeed >

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