Saudis join ‘Berry ban

- August 4th, 2010

REUTERS/Mosab Omar

There has been a lot of press over the latest countries that don’t want Blackberries in their country unless they can get access to monitor user communications.  See, for example, the Washington Post, Techdirt, Engadget.

RIM designed Blackberry communications so they would be secure, in a way that RIM itself can’t even access them.  That’s a great feature that makes privacy advocates, corporate users, and individual users very happy.

But it also makes some governments very unhappy – particularly those who believe they need to spy on communications.   Some to the extent that they threaten to ban use in their countries unless they get the access they want.   Those countries feel the need to monitor for illegal activity, or for anti-government sentiment that we in North America would consider basic free speech.   And the threat to ban irks governments like the US, because it affects US government officials and users that travel to those countries, and offends their views of free speech and individual empowerment.  The attitude of most of us in North America is that those governments should just lighten up and stop trying to suppress or control the thoughts and activities of people.

But we can’t forget that this is all a matter of degree.   US and Canada ”lawful access” advocates want ways for law enforcement to access electronic communications to fight criminals and terrorists, and have similar concerns about encryption that modern communications technology provides.  Law enforcement has always been able to do things like wiretaps with judicial oversight that requires some standard of reasonable cause before it happens.  (Although one is often suspicious about what wholesale monitoring is done at the national security level of things.)

We need to think these things through very carefully in terms of what access is truly needed and effective to fight crime, and what is merely security theatre.  Also what kind of rules, oversight, checks, and balances must go along with law enforcement access in order to balance that against rights to privacy and confidentiality.

Subscribe to the post

4 comments

  1. TIM DEVLIN | August 6, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    The Middle East is terrified of all the information out there. They don’t want their captive population learning there are great things and modern ideas and free thinking. They need to legislate and control thought or people will notice the leaders don’t live the life they demand of their people…hipocracy!
    I wish we would stop making them rich buying their damn oil.

  2. chris | August 8, 2010 at 7:19 am

    SO WHAT!!! If the Middle East wishes to remain in the dark ages, so be it. But why stop there….perhaps they could muzzle the press, engage in horrendous torture of their citizens….oh wait, they already are doing these things. We should allow them to live however they wish….but it does not mean that we need to pay attention to them.

  3. alex | August 10, 2010 at 3:52 am

    we keep those who do these things in power by giving our tax money to them every year.

  4. Haitham | August 10, 2010 at 11:09 am

    to be fair to the middle east very sensitive information is passed by the blackberries (between ceos etc.) and it first gets rerouted here in canada were america and canada have easy acces to them if they want to and the middle east gov no access at any point waht so ever. This infringes on their soveriegn rights which is not right no matter what you think of these gov.

Leave a comment

 characters available