BlackBerry Ltd CEO: Don’t Refuse Lawful Access To User Data


BlackBerry chief executive John Chen has now joined the great Encryption Debate. Criticizing Apple’s approach to privacy, he said in a blog post that the government officials have pleaded the tech companies for help for years. But their requests have been met with disdain. Apple, Google, and other companies have started using end-to-end encryption to protect user data, and refused to turn over data to federal authorities.

Chen rejects Apple’s approach to privacy

Apple CEO Tim Cook has said over and over that the company would never comply with government’s data requests. Chen’s blog post comes amid reports that terrorists might have used messaging services like WhatsApp and Telegram to communicate with each other and coordinate deadly attacks. Without naming Apple, Chen said one of the world’s most powerful companies “recently refused lawful access request in an investigation of a known drug dealer” simply because doing so could tarnish the brand.

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Chen said criminals don’t deserve privacy. It was time companies put the “greater good” above their reputations. Earlier this year, the FBI had sought access to text messages between drug dealers using iPhones. But the Cupertino company had refused to turn over the messages. BlackBerry was the pioneer of user privacy and security. World’s top leaders including President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel rely on BlackBerry phones.

BlackBerry in position to bring the government and companies together

Chen said in his blog post that the Canadian smartphone maker was in a “unique position” to bring the government and tech companies together. He rejected the notion that companies should refuse lawful, reasonable access requests. Corporates have the responsibility to thwart crime when they can do so.

However, he reiterated that companies have every right to reject attempts by government authorities to overstep. BlackBerry has refused to put backdoors in its software and smartphones. It has even exited countries altogether where authorities demanded access that would abuse the data privacy of law-abiding citizens. Chen also rejected the notion of disabling or banning encryption.