Sunday, October 10, 2010

Blackberry survives the ban!

PING, PING, PING! The handsets are ringing in celebration as Dubai society lives to party on for another day ... thanks to the continuation of Blackberry services in the UAE.

The 11th hour reprieve came on Friday with a message being sent to users that Blackberry services now comply with the telecom authorities requirements, and this begs the question as to "who caved"? Did the telecom authority relax it's requirements, or did RIM (the makers of Blackberry handsets) succumbed to pressure and opened it's security codes to the government ... something they stated would never be done.

Either way, users of the service won't really care as they can now continue to BBM away, but the question really should be asked as to what happened.

A couple of months ago, there was a strong statement from the UAE that Blackberry services would be cut off in the country. The reason given was because of security concerns. Blackberry encryption was too tight and the UAE government could not read the messages being sent via these devices.

To my my mind, there is nothing wrong with the UAE's (or any other governments) concern on this. While we may all wish for our privacy to be protected, let's not be naive - all governments are looking at phone message, text messages, instant message and emails etc..

If you are one to be concerned about this, and therefore use Blackberry because of this security, what are you really trying to hide?

Once this call for a ban came from the UAE, RIM were very fast to say that the will not compromise on their security and will not allow any government access to their servers and encryption. Who are they kidding? Does anyone seriously believe that the USA government, for one, doesn't have the full ability to tap into any Blackberry message they want?

The problem here has arisen because the discussion about access took place in the public domain instead of behind closed doors, where a sensible and discreet settlement could have been arranged. However, with the way this played out and now that Blackberry services will continue, did the UAE relax it's rules (and is now no longer concerned about security), or has RIM given in and allowed access, destroying their key differentiator from Apple and Android etc...?

My money is on RIM giving in, and they will be forced to with India as well ... and then all other countries in the world in which they operate.

But should this be a worry for people? In today's day and age, I cant believe that any information we have is secure, and people buying Blackberries for THIS reason are being unrealistic. The service RIM offers may be the most secure of all its competitors, but the security they claim to offer is by no means impenetrable. We all have enough weaknesses in our data and communications systems anyway to make the need for this imperfect protection virtually null and void.

With such a crack in it's defences, is this then the beginning of the end for Blackberry and RIM? For companies, there may now be a second thought about exclusive implementation of RIM's platform, but for my wife and the rest of Dubai society, "long live Blackberry and BBM"!

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