Research In Motion (RIM) has been in the news of late for all the wrong reasons (some would argue equally well that they are the correct reasons). Earlier DoT India was considering blocking their service unless they provide means to listen to the encrypted data of Blackberry using RIM customers. Now comes the news that United Arab Emirates’ telecom regulators have threatened to ban RIM services in UAE and in the last few days have followed up this threat by imposing a ban on their email, web access and instant messenger service from October 11.
Both India and UAE, in addition to Saudi Arabia who has joined UAE in the ban, object to the seemingly hard to crack end-to-end encryption used by the RIM network for transferring data traffic between its servers and the mobile devices. (side note: Indian government has already publicly stated that they have the means to decrypt messages from Blackberry to non-Blackberry users.) In addition, UAE has also raised objection over location of the servers that process and store the data:
The U.A.E. worries that because of jurisdictional issues, its courts couldn’t compel RIM to turn over secure data from its servers, which are outside the U.A.E. even in a national-security situation, a person familiar with the situation said.
This is a stronger requirement than what is asked for (at least publicly) by India’s DoT and in a way makes more strategic sense than asking for the capability to listen in on some of the network traffic. Ensuring that the NOCs that serve Indian customers are physically located in India places it under Indian jurisdiction, allowing the government to make additional demands through legal channels including, say, asking for privacy guarantees (along the lines of European Union Data Protection Directive) or even more snooping capabilities.
RIM has already given some form of assurance to Ministry of Home Affairs:
“BlackBerry has assured the Ministry of Home Affairs that the issue of monitoring of the BlackBerry will be sorted out soon…I am sure we will soon be on the same page and our concerns will be addressed,” Special Security (Internal Security) in the MHA Utthan Kumar Bansal told reporters on the sidelines of a function here.
And thus continues the tussle between security and privacy.