Research in Motion, the company behind the business-oriented mobile phone Blackberry, find themselves in a sticky situation in regards to their established Blackberry messaging services. Saudi Arabia has voiced its concerns over Blackberry's encrypted services and has requested Research in Motion, RIM, to provide them access to users' confidential data. The Saudi Arabian government believes that the encrypted services disrupt their ability to monitor conversations in regards to protecting "national security."
It's not only Saudi Arabia either-United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, Lebanon, Egypt, and Kuwait have also voiced their opposition to RIM and their intentions to block the network altogether by the beginning of October.
RIM has held its ground despite the call to release user data. CEO Michael Lazaridis has been emphatic about his company's position, stating that "no one, not even the company itself, can access the data or disclose the encryption key." He also noted that "everything on the internet is encrypted, this is not just a Blackberry-only issue."
Lazaridis is not without support-U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has stated that she will assist in resolving the issue, saying they will "pursue both technical and expert discussions as we go, taking time to consult and analyze the full range of interests and issues at stake."
Reporters Without Borders, an organization which promotes free press and human rights worldwide, wrote to Lazaridis "urging him not to yield to pressure and to guarantee data confidentiality." According to a report from the organization, the United Arab Emirates is ranked as a "country under surveillance" and Saudi Arabia is ranked as an "enemy of the internet."
It is believed that Saudi Arabia attempted for a short time to cut off service and follow through on its threats to block Blackberry messenger services. However, after a few hours of reported BBM network failures, the service returned to full form, according to Engadget sources including Yahoo! News.
This international spat brings an important issue to the spotlight-When does a legitimate security concern outweigh the right of free use and access? Or vice versa? And on what basis is "security concern" and "free use" determined?
For Blackberry, a business-centric mobile brand, the need for communications and data security becomes more of an issue than with other consumer-oriented mobile devices. A plethora of entrepreneurs, professionals, mobile employees, and small businesses utilize RIM's solid interface and enterprise features. Handing private communication data to international governments would defy the very existence of RIM's product-a secure, useable mobile enterprise utility.
Until next time -