While Apple has been waging a very public battle, it turns out that Canadian police have been decrypting the messages of millions of Blackberry users. Rather than apologising for the breach, Blackberry CEO John Chen defended his company’s approach.
In a statement today, Chen laid out how Blackberry approaches requests from law enforcement:
When it comes to doing the right thing in difficult situations, BlackBerry’s guiding principle has been to do what is right for the citizenry, within legal and ethical boundaries. We have long been clear in our stance that tech companies as good corporate citizens should comply with reasonable lawful access requests.
Moreover, Chen slammed the approach championed by Apple, saying that “we are indeed in a dark place when companies put their reputations above the greater good”.
It’s interesting to see a prominent (if slowly fading) technology company so eager to help out law enforcement, especially one that is as focused on security and encryption as Blackberry.
The argument they make — that companies should comply with lawful orders — isn’t out of the ordinary; in fact, Apple has been helping law enforcement in the States for years. Still, given that dozens of briefs were filed by major tech companies in support of Apple, it’s not a popular sentiment right now.
Of course, there’s another explanation. The RCMP in Canada gained access to all Blackberry messages not sent through a corporate server because all those messages are encrypted with one unique global key, maintained by Blackberry. It’s a fundamentally less safe system than the ones operated by Apple and Whatsapp, which use end-to-end encryption with a unique key.
Sure, it’s convenient for Blackberry to make a moral stand — and it’s true that in the specific case referenced, access to encrypted messages helped take down an organised crime ring. But it’s also a stance that neatly doesn’t acknowledge a fundamental flaw in Blackberry’s messaging system.