The ‘ban the Blackberry bandwagon’ is on a roll but you can’t help thinking it’s getting a little political and out of hand. After my blog on the subject earlier in the week I received a number of emails telling me that the national security arguments made by UAE and Saudi governments may not be the full story.
My China connections told me that their government was ‘negotiating’ an arrangement with RIM to establish BlackBerry data centers in the country to ensure that data from Chinese subscribers resided in China. Nice move, if it’s true, and a fair result for both RIM and the authorities.
Then, out of the blue, Indonesia’s ruling party demanded that the makers of BlackBerry establish a data processing centre in the country or face ”legal consequences”! Wow, they didn’t mince their words and at least they came clean. Indonesia said it was also concerned that the BlackBerry’s encrypted messaging system, routed exclusively through its own servers in Canada, is a security concern as it cannot be penetrated by its intelligence services or police.
Their fear is that terrorist and other criminal networks will use BlackBerrys to avoid surveillance but if you spend lots of money setting up a data centre in their country they will overlook the issues of national security. Hmmmm, that makes sense. Indonesia probably wasn’t high on RIM’s list of data center locations but it may be now.
Speaking yesterday after rampant speculation that the BlackBerry phone’s messaging and email features, which are hugely popular in Indonesia, would be banned, the Minister for Communications, Tifatul Sembiring, used his account with the social networking site Twitter to clarify the matter!
While RIM did not provide an immediate response to the Indonesian demand, the option of setting up a data centre or server ”in-country” could become a viable solution to appease concerned governments while maintaining the phone’s security features. Other smartphones access the internet, email and messaging services through servers run by third parties.
BlackBerry users in India also face a block on some services unless security agencies are able to monitor all data sent on them. Indian media reports say authorities are insisting security services be allowed access to encrypted data sent via BlackBerries.
While BlackBerry sales have skyrocketed in emerging countries including Indonesia and India, the fracas has seen the share price of RIM tumble. However, the free marketing around BlackBerry security must be worth millions of dollars!!