Having stood up to governments asking for backdoors, BlackBerry would comply with the right lawful access requests.
BlackBerry CEO John Chen spoke to the press during the BlackBerry Security Summit in London. During this conversation, he was asked if BlackBerry would comply with court orders to break their own encryption. This is not a new conversation, and really, not a new answer either.
During the beginning of the encryption debate, as Apple refused to unlock an iPhone used by the terrorists in the San Bernardino attack, Chen took to the Inside BlackBerry blog to explain BlackBerry’s stance. Chen’s response to this area of questioning shines a little more light on what that means. “Only when the government gives us a court order we will start tracking it. Then the question is: how good is the encryption?” Chen stated, “Today’s encryption has got to the point where it’s rather difficult, even for ourselves, to break it, to break our own encryption… it’s not an easily breakable thing. We will only attempt to do that if we have the right court order. The fact that we will honor the court order doesn’t imply we could actually get it done.”
Knowing what we know about reporting on BlackBerry I can only assume these statements shall be taken out of context. I can already guess that we shall soon see headlines proclaiming Apple more secure because they stood up to congress for the privacy of a dead terrorist. I much prefer BlackBerry’s method of doing “what is right for the citizenry”. Let’s not forget that BlackBerry is the company which stood up to India and Pakistan when each country requested access to BlackBerry servers. Let’s remember that BlackBerry was readying to pull all services from Pakistan when the country relented and allowed BlackBerry to maintain their products security and privacy.
We all want our communications kept private. Here in the US, the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution protects law abiding citizens from unreasonably searches and seizures. However there is a time and place for reasonable searches and seizures. This is what many of these tech companies choose to ignore while pushing talking points as a means to marketing.
Should a dead terrorist’s phone be protected by Apple? Of course not. Should a company be willing to break the encryption of a device if it might lead to the prosecution of a criminal? What if the information could be used to save a life? Or find a missing person? Are criminals rights more or less important than victims right? These are all questions that will need to be answered before we will see the end of the encryption debate. Personally? I’m exceptionally happy with the stance which BlackBerry is taking.
Just this week, I received an email from Change.org. If you’ve ever signed a petition on this site, you know that you are forever marketed other petitions. Most of these quickly find their way to the recycle bin, but this one stood out for me. The email I received, as follows;
“Jesse Galganov, a Canadian and American citizen, has been missing in Peru since September 28, 2017.
Investigators need information from his iPhone and his Kindle e-reader in order to locate him. Apple, T-Mobile, and Amazon have REFUSED to cooperate, despite requests from investigators and Jesse’s mother. They are withholding critical information and are thereby preventing authorities from finding Jesse. These corporations are wasting precious time with their obstinacy.
We demand that Apple, T-Mobile, and Amazon cooperate fully with with the authorities and investigators pursuing this case. We demand that they help us bring Jesse home.”
Now, this made me angry. With no further information, I can only imagine there is no court order in place. However, this truly comes down to doing “what is right for the citizenry”, and it appears that these companies were refusing to do that. At what point is marketing more important than finding a missing person? In case you’re as frustrated with this story as I am, you’ll be happy to learn that the petition was successful.
The latest update to the Change.org page states, “Today, Apple, Amazon and T-Mobile all responded to the Peruvian National Police request to release information on Jesse Galganov’s electronic devices. We are endlessly thankful for the assistance provided by the US State Department on this particular issue that facilitated their responding. We continue to hope and pray that this information will help us to find Jesse. Thank you so much to everyone who signed the petition, posted, lent their voice or did anything to help us to compel the release of information – you all made a difference today.”
Great news! It’s wonderful that Apple, Amazon, and T-Mobile chose to help with this case. I hope and pray that they are able to find Mr. Galganov. The question that still needs to be asked is, did these companies help because it was “right for the citizenry” or because the negative press they received from the petition? I’m afraid of what the answer might be. And am all the more happy that I know that BlackBerry is concerned about doing what is right.