RIM chief suggests method for eavesdropping

In an AP interview, co-CEO Jim Balsillie says governments that want to access private BlackBerry communications could ask companies for the encryption keys, and that would be okay with RIM.

After tangling with foreign governments over BlackBerry encryption issues, Research In Motion's co-CEO has one suggestion: ask the companies that use the smartphones for the encryption keys.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Jim Balsillie, co-CEO of RIM, reiterated the company's assertion that it has no way of giving governments the keys to the corporate data that flow through its BlackBerry networks. But those governments are free to ask BlackBerry-wielding companies themselves for access, a move that would be okay by RIM.

Balsillie added that he could see such countries creating a national registry in which companies doing business locally would be required to give government officials the encryption keys to help them tap into secure messages. This would leave RIM out of the process entirely, putting the onus on governments and companies to hash things out.

"We would support that if it's applied equitably to everyone," Balsillie told the AP. However, the CEO cautioned that governments that adopt such a practice risk alienating businesses that have set up shop, potentially prompting them to pack up their bags.

"Will companies just leave and say this is not commercial practice that's acceptable?" he said. "Strong encryption for corporate data is the norm in all business."

RIM has run into conflict with several foreign governments over the security of the BlackBerry network. Countries such as the United Arab Emirates, India, and Indonesia have been trying to force the company to open up access to data from its corporate customers so they could monitor messages for national security reasons. These governments have threatened to shut down key BlackBerry services unless their demands are met. But aside from one workaround of placing local BlackBerry servers inside a country's borders, RIM has remained steadfast, arguing that its data is encrypted and that it does not hold the keys to deciper that encryption.

Meanwhilte, the Obama administration is reportedly looking into the feasibility of pushing for a law that would force Internet communications providers to create encryption backdoors for the benefit of U.S. law enforcement agencies.

 

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