BlackBerry had a specialized unit, which for years enthusiastically offered its help in intercepting user data, including BBM messages, to help the police in hundreds of investigations in dozens of countries, revealed a CBC News investigation. The struggling smartphone maker at one point had 15 people in its Public Safety Operations team.
BlackBerry helped in many high-profile cases
CBC News managed to gain a rare glimpse inside the team that handled warrants and police requests for user information and kept it confidential for a long time. Citing company insiders, CBC said the company has been actively providing assistance to police in a wide range of high-profile investigations, but behind the scenes.
However, the number of requests that BlackBerry received each year or the number of requests it has fulfilled is not clear because it does not publish the transparency reports that many other technology companies do. Citing an example, the insiders told the media outlet that the Canadian firm intercepted messages to help investigators probing political scandals in Brazil.
Insiders also told CBC News that the company also offered its help to verify the BBM messages in the Major League Baseball drug investigation, which resulted in the suspension of New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez in 2014.
CBC News obtained a document that reveals how the Canadian firm processes the requests for information and cooperates with government agencies and foreign law enforcement. One of the sources told CBC News that requests from police in dozens of countries swamp the company.
“We were helping law enforcement kick ass,” said the source. “Narco trafficking, human trafficking, money laundering, kidnapping, crime against children, knowing you are stopping those things … how do you not love doing something like that?”
Doing what is right and ethical
CBC News asked a number of questions to a BlackBerry spokesperson, who said the nature of the process was too sensitive and therefore, they would not address the questions. In a statement, the Canadian firm said it is doing what is right within legal and ethical boundaries “when called upon to provide aid in the apprehension of criminals, or preventing government abuse of invading citizen’s privacy.”
“We have long been clear in our stance that tech companies, as good corporate citizens, should comply with reasonable lawful access requests,” BlackBerry said.
At 9:40 a.m. Eastern, BlackBerry shares were down 1.84% at $7.22. Year to date, the stock is down almost 23%, while in the last year, it is down by over 22%. The stock has a 52-week high of $9.63 and a 52-week low of $5.96.