After some conflicts in India, a BlackBerry ban in the UAE, and tensions over national security in Saudia Arabia, Kuwait, and now Lebanon, BlackBerry’s encryption–the secure technology that led to the growth of the BlackBerry platform–is causing trouble for the device’s maker Research in Motion at a time when the world is concerned about terrorism, security, privacy, and censorship. Governments in some regions want access to RIM’s encrypted data–emails, messages, and communications sent by BlackBerry users over RIM’s encrypted servers; these governments have cited national security as the argument. In response to governments’ concerns, CEO Mike Lazaridis said in an interview that the issue is not just about BlackBerry smartphones, but about the Internet and communications: “Everything on the Internet is encrypted. This is not a BlackBerry-only issue. If they can’t deal with the Internet, they should shut it off.”
The RIM CEO says that he will continue to talk with these countries and have rational discussions, though noted that the misunderstanding over the role of the Internet could be due to “a lot of these people don’t have Ph.Ds, and they don’t have a degree in computer science.”
Hopefully RIM will have a chance to work things out with local governments to not lose market share as RIM is now being pursued by rivals Google with Android, Apple with iOS, and Microsoft soon with Windows Phone 7. There is also threat from Nokia with Symbian and MeeGo. Contracting market share due to losses over issues of security at a time of fierce competition could displace RIM’s lead over other smartphone makers. At the same time, if RIM caves and gives certain governments access to encrypted data, the company could lose its larger clients in the West who trust in the security and encryption technology that RIM servers have provided.