Research In Motion Ltd (NASDAQ:BBRY) was not implicated as having a role in the National Security agency PRISM online-surveillance program that was leaked in recent days – at least in the U.S. – but it has found itself embroiled in its own security- and intelligence-related controversy when a British newspaper revealed through documents released by NSA leaker Edward Snowden that a U.K. intelligence agency had monitored cell phone and e-mail traffic over BlackBerry devices owned by foreign delegates of G20 nations during a couple of summits held in London four years ago.
If the report is true and the NSA documents show this, it throws Research In Motion Ltd (NASDAQ:BBRY) in with the nine companies that the documents revealed the NSA had “infiltrated” in order to monitor traffic and web browsing records of millions of US. citizens as well as those with known ties to terrorism or terror groups. And now that this is out, BlackBerry is finding itself in a very awkward position – on the one hand, BlackBerry could either say it was breached without prior knowledge, which brings into question the security reputation for the BlackBerry platform, or it can profess that its security is still intact and that it was not breached – which then means that BlackBerry would admit that it was complicit in allowing the surveillance to take place. Does it want to tarnish its image as providing the best, state-of-the-art wireless security, or tarnish its reputation as being a proponent for user privacy and security of its data?
Apparently, Research In Motion Ltd (NASDAQ:BBRY) took the stance Monday that seems to indicate the latter. In an e-mailed statement in response to the Guardian’s reporting, the company wrote, “We remain confident in the superiority of BlackBerry’s mobile security platform for customers using our integrated device and enterprise server technology. There is no ‘back door’ pipeline to that platform.”
And of course where this is going. Research In Motion Ltd (NASDAQ:BBRY) may likely find itself answering questions about that statement. If there is no “back door” as BlackBerry claims, then the only way that U.K. intelligence gets to the information it (supposedly) accessed “in near real-time,” according to the 2009 documents, would be to go in through the front door – which means BlackBerry had to have known about the surveillance and somehow allowed it to happen. Which would then lead to questions about how many accounts were compromised by the surveillance? Was there a court order for this? Did BlackBerry volunteer its cooperation, or was it required for national security reasons? And how much many BlackBerry subscribers were exposed to their data being collected or their messages being monitored?
Does this make you want to grab some popcorn and sit back to see how these tech companies will negotiate this privacy-vs.-security minefield? How do you think Research In Motion Ltd (NASDAQ:BBRY) will come out at the end of the day? Considering its security reputation and its place in the smartphone market, how much do you think BlackBerry has to lose here? Give us your feedback in the comments section below.