Cultural Interface :

Research In Motion Claims To Be Saying “No, Not, Never”

Despite threats of closing down their service in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, leaks from sources inside Kuwait and India that they have already conceded some access and threats from other countries to do the same, Research in Motion is claiming that they have not given in to opening their system.

Mike Lazaridis who is the founder and co-chief executive of RIM has stated in an interview that allowing governments to monitor messages moving through the Blackberry network could put the relationships it enjoys with customers at risk, these customers include major companies and law enforcement agencies.

He was quoted, “We’re not going to compromise that,” and “That’s what’s made BlackBerry the No. 1 solution worldwide.” Mr. Lazaridis denied reports that the company had already granted concessions to India and China, as reported here, “The Cultural Interface: RIM makes concessions to India & Kuwait.” He went on to say, “That’s absolutely ridiculous and patently false.”

Research in Motion issued a statement, “…customers of the BlackBerry enterprise solution can maintain confidence in the integrity of the security architecture without fear of compromise,”

Jonathan Zittrain who is a professor of law and computer science at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society points out hat we are only seeing a sliver of the conversation between RIM and the governments requesting greater surveillance access to their networks, He makes avery finely diced analysis on his blog,”The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It.” Professor Zittrain also, points out that RIM’s statement is very carefully worded, very carefully. Although they claim to be protecting companies they make no claims for individual customers.

Wether for negotiating leverage or that they really mean to carry out the policy, the Emirates’ telecom authority announced on Monday that the blackout for Blackberry users will apply to travelers passing through their airports, as well as, those living in the country. As I reported in the last article, 100,000 travelers pass through the Dubai airport everyday, it is the busiest in the Middle East.

U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said the U.A.E’s decision would set a “dangerous precedent” for other countries. He went on to say, “We’re disappointed at the announcement,” and “We are committed to promoting the free flow of information. We think it’s innovative. It’s integral to an innovative economy and we will be clarifying with the U.A.E. their reasons for making this announcement.”

The UAE is now claiming that they are only asking for the same regulatory ability that the United States and the United Kingdom enjoy. This may be so, but in most cases those countries require some kind of legal process and oversight. As a citizen of the United States, I say this with tongue firmly planted in cheek. “In fact, the U.A.E. is asking for exactly the same regulatory compliance–and with the same principles of judicial and regulatory oversight–that BlackBerry grants the U.S. and other governments and nothing more,” Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba said in a statement. “Importantly, the U.A.E. requires the same compliance as the U.S. for the very same reasons: to protect national security and to assist in law enforcement.”

It is clear that this battle is not over and that, as in the Google versus China disagreement, a single company and its customers are not the only constituents involved in the debate, but governments are finding themselves on either of the issue.

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