RIM CEO: Governments Seeking BlackBerry Ban Don't Understand The Internet


Countries threatening to ban Research In Motion’s BlackBerry phones unless given access to transmitted communications and transactions just don’t get it when it comes to the Internet, according to RIM co-CEO Michael Lazaridis.

“This is about the Internet,” Lazardis is quoted in an interview in today’s Wall Street Journal. “Everything on the Internet is encrypted. This is not a BlackBerry-only issue. If they can’t deal with the Internet, they should shut it off.”

RIM is embroiled in a dispute with authorities in India, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other countries, which are demanding that they be given greater access to the encrypted information sent by BlackBerry devices. Saudi Arabia’s government has ordered cellphone service providers to discontinue BlackBerry service starting tomorrow unless RIM complies while the UAE has set an October 11 deadline.

RIM has opposed the requests, but is negotiating with authorities in those countries to reach some kind of settlement. In the interview Lazardis said it can’t give access to encrypted data and has never given any one government special treatment. He expressed confidence that RIM and the countries can work out a deal.

“We have dealt with this before,” Lazardis said. “This will get resolved. And it will get resolved if there is a chance for rational discussion.” But he declined to provide details about the status of the negotiations, which include talks with the telecommunications regulatory authority in Saudi Arabia and three wireless service providers in that country.

Lazardis said the demands threaten the growth of electronic commerce. He said part of the challenge is educating foreign nations on how the Internet and BlackBerry service works, the story said. “We are going to continue to work with them to make sure they understand the reality of the Internet,” he is quoted as saying. “A lot of these people don’t have Ph.Ds, and they don’t have a degree in computer science.”

But Lazaridis also acknowledged that if RIM were given the equivalent of a court order to intercept a client’s communications, RIM would have to comply.