Our last blog focused on Apple’s refusal to compromise its global device security in response to an FBI court order. Blackberry appears to have taken a different approach in a similar situation. Recently, Vice reported that the RCMP possesses a global encryption key for Blackberry. Documents released in a Montreal case reveal that the RCMP used the encryption key in a criminal investigation, Operation Clemenza. However, the encryption key could, in theory, be used to access other consumer Blackberry devices.
The extent of Blackberry’s involvement in the Operation Clemenza investigation remains unclear. Blackberry resisted publication of these records. What is known is that, through some means, police obtained a global key to Blackberry devices.
In a recent blog Blackberry CEO John Chen, commented that while privacy is a core principle of Blackberry, tech companies should comply with reasonable lawful access requests.
Concerns about Blackberry security are not new. Former Ontario Privacy Commissioner Ann Cavoukian has noted that rumors were circulating in 2010 that Blackberry shared its decryption key with two foreign governments. Further, the Globe and Mail reported in 2014 that leaked federal documents suggested Blackberry PIN to PIN messaging should be considered as “scrambled” but not encrypted.
While it is too early to draw any conclusions on consumer response to Blackberry’s position on privacy, it is clear that privacy is becoming a marketing asset. In the case of Apple, privacy protection appears to have helped Apple’s brand. The jury is out on Blackberry.