RIM To UAE, Customers: We Can't Access BlackBerry User Data5:28 PM EST Mon. Aug. 02, 2010
Research In Motion (RIM) told BlackBerry users and the United Arab Emirates on Monday that it cannot access BlackBerry customer data. The statement comes in response to the UAE threatening to ban most BlackBerry services later this year due to national security concerns and the government's inability to tap into BlackBerry user data.
In a statement to the Wall Street Journal, RIM said "no one, including RIM, could access" BlackBerry customer data, and that its BlackBerry network is setup to encrypt all data from the time it leaves the device. The statement added that RIM would "simply be unable to accommodate any request" for a key to unencrypt the data.
The UAE government said Sunday that it would ban BlackBerry services like email, messaging and browsing in the country starting Oct. 11 because those services "allow users to act without any legal accountability, causing judicial, social and national security concerns." UAE officials have said that BlackBerry data moves through RIM servers globally and that the UAE can't tap into that data to determine if illegal activity is taking place. The UAE wants RIM to move servers to its country where it will have legal jurisdiction over them or give officials access to the data.
Saudi Arabia and possibly other Middle Eastern countries are expected to follow UAE's lead and also ban BlackBerry use unless RIM offers their respective governments the ability to access user data.
"RIM operates in over 175 countries today and provides a security architecture that is widely accepted by security conscious customers and governments around the world. RIM respects both the regulatory requirements of government and the security and privacy needs of corporations and consumers. RIM does not disclose confidential regulatory discussions that take place with any government. However RIM assures its customers that it is committed to continue delivering highly secure and innovative products that satisfy the needs of both customers and governments," the company said in a statement emailed to CRN.
RIM makes it clear that it cannot access the data and it can't grant access to its users, whether it wants to or not.
The statement RIM provided to the Wall Street Journal added that the BlackBerry network is designed "to exclude the capability for RIM or any third party to read encrypted information under any circumstances." The location of BlackBerry's servers doesn't matter, the company said, because the data on them can't be deciphered without a decryption key.
The flap between RIM and UAE comes just before RIM is expected to make a major BlackBerry-related announcement at an event in New York. The ordeal also caused RIM stock to tumble on Monday with U.S. shares dropping by as much as 2.4 percent to $56.12 Monday morning.