Skip to main content

BlackBerry reiterates stance on encryption: Lawful compliance and no backdoors

At MWC 2016 today and in the shadow of Apple's battle with the FBI over encryption, BlackBerry reiterated their stance on security and encryption. It's a nuanced position: compliance with legal requests but also protecting their customers' privacy.

A BlackBerry spokesperson said:

BlackBerry abides by lawful access principles — at the end of the day we want to ensure that we're not helping criminals or terrorists. With that said, we don't create backdoors and that's something we stand by.

If you'll recall, BlackBerry nearly pulled out of Pakistan after government demands for backdoor access to BlackBerry servers. They "made it clear to the government that that wasn't something they would do."

BlackBerry CEO John Chen stated in December that:

Security is what we do. Privacy is what you get. We have the most trusted networks outside of the carriers themselves – it is what we offer and how we think about our business.

BlackBerry stated that they will always comply with lawful legal requests — and declined to comment on their potential involvement with the capture of BlackBerry-using Mexican drug kingpin Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán. Additionally, Blackberry declined to comment on if they possess the capability to decrypt the internal storage of the BlackBerry Priv, which uses whole-device encryption. Apple's fight with the FBI has revolved partly around device encryption, which Apple claims is secure enough that they do not have the ability to break into their own devices.

Derek Kessler is Special Projects Manager for Mobile Nations. He's been writing about tech since 2009, has far more phones than is considered humane, still carries a torch for Palm (the old one), and got a Tesla because it was the biggest gadget he could find. You can follow him on Twitter at @derekakessler.

  • Sounds like Apple would need to create software to decrypt iphones and BlackBerry already has that software to decrypt their phones. That is what I gathered from them declining to comment. Just an observation. Posted via the S6 Active
  • Or you can take that as Blackberry retains a copy of the keys used to encrypt the device, which actually is a back door but that wont admit it, because their servers are "secure"
  • This is not a very reassuring statement. So they always comply with those warrants that 'secret courts' grant every single time they are requested? Unacceptable. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Do you wear a tinfoil hat? I bet you wear a tinfoil hat :D Jokes aside, don't you think those warrants are given out for a reason and not just all willy nilly? Blackberry Priv
    Nvidia Shield "Portable"
    Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact
  • The issue is not that you do or do not trust your government to use secret tribunals wisely. They were given the ability to circumvent the 4th Amendment, and that should never have happened -- no, not even for 'security'. Sooner or later someone will abuse that power.
  • That power has already been abused from the NSA's PRISM and more spying surveillance program in the US, EU etc. But everyone spys on each other Posted via the Android Central App on my Frost Nexus 6P
  • That's precisely the point. That's why Apple is pushing back so hard.
  • Yeah, maybe I do. I think the government will absolutely overstep their authority *every single chance* they get, and history shows that is exactly what they have done over and over going back all the way to J. Edgar Hoover. They illegally wire tapped Muhammad Ali during the Vietnam War (which is why he was not convicted for dodging the draft, btw), the same way as they illegally implemented the mass collection of metadata and recording phone calls through Prism. If Apple loses this case, the tech industry *must* immediately get to work on an unbreakable encryption and make it so that there is absolutely no way for even the engineers to access the data. If you forget your password, you have to reset your phone. Posted via the Android Central App
  • It can be a slippery slope, I definitely get that, however I do believe that there should be some level of cooperation with law enforcement regarding criminal activity on phones. Ultimately, I do believe Apple should have cracked the phone open and let law enforcement look inside. The key would be an appropriate level of concern from citizens and a government that is restrained from running amok. However we can strike that balance is where we need to be
  • God, finally a voice of reason! So many people are so obsessed with privacy and think that the government should have no way whatsoever to access any part of your phone. And while that is important, when lives are on the line (catch a murderer before they murder again, counter terrorism blah blah blah etc. etc.) I think we should all re-evaluate our priorities. And sure, the whole slippery slope argument is valid, but only to a point. A balance needs to be found and fast. As a side note, only a few years ago our phones weren't even encrypted and we all still survived with our way of life intact. Amazing, huh? Blackberry Priv
    Nvidia Shield "Portable"
    Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact
  • Anybody who will trade freedom for security deserves neither.
  • Muh freedum You are already doing just that. The law and all that is all about trading freedom for security. Are you a law abiding citizen? Well guess what, you're trading freedom for security.
    Would you rather someone die than be at "risk" of the evil government being able to see your, I dunno, whatever private stuff you have on your phone? Because that would be selfish to the extreme. Blackberry Priv
    Nvidia Shield "Portable"
    Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact
  • Not even close to the same thing. you're talking about a different type of freedom. All freedom is derived from God, not the government.
  • What do you mean? Blackberry Priv
    Nvidia Shield "Portable"
    Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact
  • I remember when social security numbers would "never" be used as a form of identification. All power is subject to corruption, to believe there is a system where that isn't true is to turn an ignorant eye to the overwhelming proof of history. Also, you should Google that quote about freedom and security. You could learn a lot from the man who said that. Honestly the unreasonable thing here is people who want to rewrite history for their own convenience and ignorance. Those fighting for privacy should be applauded, they are our heroes Posted via the Android Central App
  • The problem isn't that Apple was asked to crack the phone open. The problem is that the FBI asked Apple to make them software to crack open any iPhone, and that's a line too far.
  • I agree. That's the running amok part. It needs to stay vaulted in the walls at Apple and there needs to be accountablity across the board. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Maybe this is easier said then done... Posted via the Android Central App
  • That's impossible give the chain of custody.
  • Actually, the FBI said Apple only had to crack that particular phone and that it could keep or destroy -- Apple's choice -- the software afterward.
  • BS
  • The FBI actually wants Apple to make the software(key) and hand it over so they do not have to ask every time. FBI wants control. In theory they would still need a warrant, but we know how that goes. Posted via Nexus 6 running on any data plan I want
  • I thought the same,but not so sure anymore.
    Seems like Apple is not willing to break in the phone at all. And the reason why is kinda legitimate, because they claim that in order to get in, they have to create the key (for the very first time) which can always end up in the wrong hands and therefore pose the threat to all iPhone users worldwide. So, it's not about giving the software to the feds (to use it whenever they please), but creating in it in the first place.
    Really tough call to make.
    And privacy concerns are also arguable (w legitimate warrant). Say it's a house and cops want to peak in. It's only up to the owner to let them in. But, if they have the court order in hands - search warrant, police doesn't have to wait for his approval. Why, should a phone or any personal item be an exempt? Again, really hard to stick hard with any side. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Do we limit safe technology in order to be sure cops can break them open if necessary? Imagine a safe that couldn't be opened without destroying the contents inside. Would you demand that the manufacturer inject a weakness in such a safe for use by the government? I wouldn't support that. You should have the right to use whatever technology is available to hide data from everyone, including the government. In fact, I would argue that the government is the largest threat to privacy so to weaken encryption on their behalf is more than counter productive.
  • Can't you create a key, then melt the damn key after the data is off the phone? Posted via the Android Central App
  • Apple says NO. VZW Moto X DE/N7
  • It's not a physical key. The software can never be destroyed.
  • Apple is complying. They just don't want tot open a Pandora's box. This whole thing is about every incident during the Obama administration. Never let a good crisis go to waste.
  • I would like BlackBerry to state their stance on when the Priv is coming to Verizon
  • WOW an announcement from BlackBerry @ MWC. I guess they went too provide just their stance on privacy. I thought BlackBerry would announce a new Android. Device or give insight in to the Verizon priv release. I guess I just was a fool. SMH! Posted via Android Central App
  • This is a modern day ethical Question. I understand the FBI's interest in unlocking the phone in this case ( and soon others) to track down contacts, emails, photos etc to avoid other possible incidences and connections. The question then is what government(s) could do with this back door to violating our rights.
    On the one hand, we expect our governments to protect and stop terrorist attacks but yet we hinder their ability. What is the fine line we must cross? " The cost of freedom is eternal vigilance." Anyone else as conflicted as I am. There I see no clear answer.
  • I guess my fear in a governmental organization snooping through my device is, even though I have absolutely nothing to hide, what if a rep of said organization finds something they deem relevant. Now I need to fight to clear my name. Let's face it, there are people on the no-fly list that have no reason to be there. How does that happen, and why should they have to pay to fight such a charge? Posted via the Android Central App
  • Correct me if I am wrong but aren't there provisions in the"Patriot Act" our elected officials here in the U.S. keep renewing that basically gives the "authorities" the right to acquire whatever they deem necessary in order to protect our "freedoms" ? Most of the presidential candidates support keeping the Patriot Act going, some want "stronger" surveillance put into the legislation. We continue to ignore that in the U.S. and your privacy and "secure" device doesn't mean s#it no matter who you buy from.
  • This question seems to be hashed to USA Government vs Evil Terrorist Guys and I guess in that case, BlackBerry is saying your device will be cracked like a nut and your information provided to the Government. There are other Governments and other places who criminalize who you associate with and who you can love. They give you a lawful summons I guess BlackBerry is going to hand over that information too. If I was Tim Cook I wouldn't take a BlackBerry to Uganda or Russia, for example, any time soon.
  • To hell with el chapo... What about all of India?
  • I'm sure all 25 of BlackBerry's users will appreciate this.
  • Many corporations use BB. You're snide comment aside.
  • BlackBerry says they don't create backdoor but will cooperate with the Government if it will save thousand of lives from ISIS or Terrorist. I say if it will save life from more killing; why not do it? Why protect bad people? If Apple wins the case, it will create more bad people to use the smart devices for communication to organize more killing since they know the law cannot win over big corporation. I know more business/consumer stand with Apple to stay intact, not to bend for the Government. Understandable that this situation is not involve with their love ones. If it is involved with their love ones, they will have difference opinion I think. So, let's see how long Apple stand tough before crawling to the Government for help. I think Apple just want publicity for Privacy/Security since the iPhone sale is slowing down and try to convince consumer that iPhone is very strong with security/privacy and don't worry about your naked images will get expose to the internet again.
  • That's what happened in England after the London riots in 2011.
    Hard to tell what is RIM up to, but most likely they do have some "backdoor" and willing to help government with specific requests. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Let's just say that dead terrorist has info on future attacks on his phone, would you not want to find out? I don't think criminals have freedom of privacy. You think the feds will waste their time and resource to look into everybody's phone for kicks? If only there's a way to decrypt a particular phone without compromising all the rest. Google Nexus 6P
  • Catch 22. You don't know what you don't know. In order for you to know you have to monitor everyone's devices to know which people have information that is valuable. That is unacceptable. Lightning kills more people in America than terrorists. Heck, toddlers with guns kill more people than terrorists. Yet, if you try to regulate guns the gun fetishists have a conniption. People give in to their irrational fear of terrorists and want to compromise all of our rights. I personally won't stand for it.
  • I think Snowden already answered that question about who the "feds" monitor. Anyone they want to. I am sure they had some very good reasons to be suspicious of the German Chancellor...
  • How would you know? You don't seem to understand the nuance of the situation and I, like many others are tired of educating people like yourself.
  • Apple said they can do it. But want... The article states apple said they couldn't do it? What's up with that? Posted via the Android Central App
  • Will never buy a BlackBerry. Posted via the Android Central App