LONDON/TORONTO Aug 9 A lawmaker called on
Tuesday for BlackBerry's instant messaging service to be
suspended after rioters used it to mobilise in London and other
David Lammy, Member of Parliament for Tottenham, where
London's worst riots for decades began on Saturday, appealed on
Twitter and on BBC radio for BlackBerry maker Research in Motion
to suspend BlackBerry Messenger (BBM).
"This is one of the reasons why unsophisticated criminals
are outfoxing an otherwise sophisticated police force," he
tweeted. "BBM is different as it is encrypted and police can't
The riots, in which shops are being looted and cars and
buildings set ablaze, spread to Britain's second-largest city
Birmingham and other centres.
Politicians and police are blaming the violence on criminals
and hooligans but some commentators and local residents say its
roots lie in anger over economic hardship in a city where the
prospects for many youths are dim.
Many of the rioters favour BlackBerry Messenger over Twitter
and other social media because its messages are encrypted and
private, but the service is widely used and messages can easily
be sent to groups.
Research In Motion said in a statement on Monday: "As in all
markets around the world where BlackBerry is available, we
cooperate with local telecommunications operators, law
enforcement and regulatory officials."
The company declined to say whether it was handing over chat
logs or user details to police.
Research In Motion's Inside BlackBerry blog was hacked on
Tuesday by a group going by the name of Teampoison. The group
posted a warning to the company not to cooperate with police.
"You Will _NOT_ assist the UK Police because if u do
innocent members of the public who were at the wrong place at
the wrong time and owned a blackberry will get charged for no
reason at all," the statement said.
"If you do assist the police by giving them chat logs, gps
locations, customer information & access to peoples
BlackBerryMessengers you will regret it, we have access to your
database which includes your employees information; e.g -
Addresses, Names, Phone Numbers etc. - now if u assist the
police, we _WILL_ make this information public and pass it onto
rioters," it said.
Sameet Kanade, analyst at Northern Securities in Toronto,
said: "RIM will need the directive of the UK authorities and the
cooperation of the carriers. Lawful intercept is the only valid
legal reason that a carrier and handset vendor can intervene.
"In terms of actual mechanism, RIM has always claimed that
it is unable to de-encrypt/decipher messages routed through the
BES or BIS servers. It may be able to disable the routing of
messages at best, from what I understand."
Geoff Blaber, analyst with UK telecoms research firm CCS
Insight, said: "One option would be to switch it off. But BBM is
highly popular and has got a big installed base in the UK."
BlackBerry Messenger, or BBM as it is popularly known, has
driven sales to new audiences for RIM in recent years as it
expanded from its base as a tool for executives to a more
consumer and younger clientele.
It has more than 45 million active users worldwide, 70
percent of whom use it daily, sending billions of messages in
total every month.
Users with data plans can instantly pass text messages,
pictures and other files without incurring charges from their
RIM has got into hot water in the past on the one hand for
cooperating with governments seen as repressive, and on the
other for not cooperating enough with the security needs of
authorities in some countries.
Its encrypted services, which it moves over its own servers
via telecom carriers, have been blamed for aiding militant
attacks in India and for allowing unrelated men and women to
communicate in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
In August last year, a source close to talks between RIM and
Saudi authorities said the Canadian company had agreed to hand
over information that would allow monitoring of BBM.
A deal was also reached in the UAE, averting a threatened
ban on all BlackBerry services.
The company says it cooperates with authorities around the
world with a consistent standard.
RIM has been relatively willing to provide authorities with
access to its consumer services, such as BBM, but says it has no
way of allowing monitoring of its enterprise email.
In the case of India, RIM gave the authorities access to
BlackBerry Messenger services but said it did not have the
technical capabilities to provide interception of corporate
emails on the popular device.
India has demanded access to all BlackBerry services as part
of efforts to fight militancy and security threats over the
Internet and through telephone communications
In London, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Stephen Kavanagh of
the Metropolitan police said on Tuesday: "Police have got
extensive monitoring of this BlackBerry messaging model and
actually a lot of people who are seeing these Blackberry
messages are forwarding them to the police."
Police did not immediately respond to a request for more
details of how they were monitoring message traffic.
(Additional reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Janet