Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

DEBATE

Pakistan's Political Turmoil: Can Imran Khan's PTI Party Depose the Government? (part 2)

Read more

DEBATE

Pakistan's Political Turmoil: Can Imran Khan's PTI Party Depose the Government?

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

#IceBucketChallenge and hashtag activism

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

A bellwether for what not to do

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

'The world’s dictators love the unrest in Ferguson'

Read more

ENCORE!

Montreal Stories

Read more

BUSINESS DAILY

More than half of French households will pay no income tax this year

Read more

WEB NEWS

Web users taking on the "Ice Bucket Challenge" to fight ALS

Read more

FOCUS

Israel's minorities and military service

Read more

  • Ex-PM Juppé announces bid for 2017 French presidential race

    Read more

  • Dozens killed as landslides strike Japan’s Hiroshima

    Read more

  • IS militants ‘behead’ missing US journalist in gruesome video

    Read more

  • Deadly airstrikes hit Gaza as ceasefire with Israel collapses

    Read more

  • Tentative peace in Ferguson despite second fatal shooting

    Read more

  • Suspected Ebola cases in Austria, new drug raises hopes

    Read more

  • WWII anniversary highlights best - and worst - of Paris police

    Read more

  • Headscarf at the beach sparks French MEP’s fury

    Read more

  • Iraqi army clashes with militants in Tikrit after retaking key dam

    Read more

  • Video: Life in under-siege Donetsk

    Read more

  • Racism, riots and police violence: USA under scrutiny

    Read more

  • ‘Let it be’: Londoners sick of Abbey Road tourists

    Read more

  • Australia to free children from immigration detention centres

    Read more

Europe

BlackBerry silent amid calls to suspend messaging

Video by Eric Olander

Text by Tony Todd

Latest update : 2011-08-11

Blackberry’s encrypted messaging system is hugely popular with British teenagers; it is also popular with the rioters who laid waste to areas of London over the weekend. But calls for the service to be suspended are likely to fall on deaf ears.

BlackBerry makers Research in Motion (RIM) remained tight-lipped Wednesday after calls for its free messaging service to be suspended because it was being used by rioters in London.

On Tuesday David Lammy, Labour Member of Parliament for the Tottenham area of London where the rioting began, blamed BlackBerry’s instant messaging service (BBM) for helping the mobs that brought carnage to the streets of the English capital.
 
Lammy tweeted on Tuesday: “Immediate action needed. LDNers cannot have another evening like last night tonight. BBM clearly helping rioters outfox Police. Suspend it.”
 
BlackBerry responded Tuesday with its own tweet: “We feel for those impacted by the riots in London. We have engaged with the authorities to assist in any way we can.”
 
On Wednesday it remained unclear exactly how far that co-operation would go.
 
Data security a popular feature
 
BBM is a closed and encrypted communications system. Users have to share a PIN number to be on each others’ lists, while unlimited single or group messages and chats can be sent instantly and free of charge.
 
FRANCE 24’s Digital Media Editor Eric Olander said the major attraction of the BlackBerry to London’s rioters is that its low-end models are among the most affordable on the market.
 
“It costs much less than an iPhone of any of the Android devices,” he said, adding that the BBM system was “free to use and encrypted, meaning the messages cannot be monitored by the police.”
 
For Wired.co.uk’s Olivia Solon, BBM was the rioter’s communications tool of choice purely because as a free and unlimited mobile platform, it holds a huge appeal to young users.
 
“BBM is free, instant and extremely popular … and it is hard for the authorities to monitor” Solon told FRANCE 24. “But I don't believe this is the reason why rioters are using it - they are using it because that is just how they communicate.”
 
Recent research by UK regulator Ofcom shows that more than a third of British teenagers own a BlackBerry device.
 
BlackBerry’s conundrum
 
The high security of BBM is one of the core elements of the BlackBerry business model, and the devices are popular with both business and government users wary of data theft and espionage.
 
While BlackBerry said it was cooperating with police, it has to take into account more than 45 million BBM users worldwide – including US President Barack Obama – who value the privacy it offers against platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.
 
RIM has so far declined to elaborate on how far they would go to “assist with the authorities”.
 
Solon said that in the UK, police could apply to Blackberry under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) – but were restricted to “individual customer's information and cannot trawl through all of their records looking for search terms.”
 
“Most of the time, and particularly with business customers, customer privacy is more prescient than state security,” she added. “It's only at times of major unrest that it may be important to breach that privacy.”
 
It is not the first time BlackBerry’s BBM has fallen foul of nervous politicians and governments.
 
Following the 2010 Mumbai attacks, the Indian government threatened to block BBM for fear it was being used by terrorist cells, while the UAE and Saudi Arabia, wanting to block dissent, also (unsuccessfully) demanded official access to the service.

 

Date created : 2011-08-10

  • ANALYSIS

    Britain's burning: what's behind the riots?

    Read more

  • UK

    Police out in force as riots spread across Britain

    Read more

COMMENT(S)