Blackberry has made the bulk of their buck in the mobile market space selling security as one of their main value propositions. All this privacy peddling has earned them a reputation as one of the most secure, trust-worthy phone manufacturers out there and they even released a device last year, named the PRIV, after privacy. Imagine my surprise then, when I saw this report from VICE News.
According to the report, the RCMP, Royal Canadian Mounted Police gained possession of the master encryption key and used it to intercept more than 1 million Blackberry messages between 2010 and 2012.
Redacted court documents from a murder case in 2011 confirm that police keep a server in Ottawa to simulate a mobile device that receives a message intended for a recipient, and after that, the “Blackberry interception and processing system” decrypts the message using the key.
It’s still a bit murky, whether the key’s been changed since then and how the RCMP obtained the key, as neither Blackberry nor the Police admitted that Blackberry handed it over. But it gets better. Blackberry CEO, John Chen has written on Blackberry’s blog that Blackberry rejects “the notion that tech companies should refuse reasonable, lawful access requests.” Translation: they are willing to co-operate with Law Enforcement under special circumstances. Of course, no one other than Blackberry determines what circumstances are special or otherwise.
Government lawyers spent 2 years in a Montreal courtroom, fighting to keep this information out of the public record. Who knows what other companies have rolled over for government agencies and given them access to user data? Kind of makes you appreciate Apple’s position vs. the FBI even more.
Ever thankful for the little things.