Toronto, Oct 22 (IANS) With Research In Motion (RIM) facing demands from India and other nations for access to its encrypted data, Toronto-based Citizen Lab Thursday launched a website to monitor BlackBerry data traffic to know its secret security deals – if any – with these countries.
RIM is said to have reached a deal with the UAE which had threatened to ban BlackBerry services by Oct 11 and India also has extended its deadline for the Canadian wireless giant to comply with its request.
But RIM says it cannot comply because it has no access to encrypted data passing through its secure servers.
The Citizen Lab, which in April exposed unprecedented Chinese cyber offensive against India, says its website RIM Check (rimcheck.org) will shed light on RIM’s questionable security deals – with Asian and Middle Eastern nations – which have consequences for human rights.
In a statement, the Citizen Lab said, ‘Recently a number of governments have threatened to ban Research in Motion’s BlackBerry services if the company does not make encrypted BlackBerry data and other content available to state authorities. A major concern of these regimes is that BlackBerry data can be encrypted and routed through servers located outside of their jurisdictions.’
But ‘unconfirmed reports have circulated that RIM has made data sharing agreements with India and Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Other countries are also requesting the company locate data centres within their jurisdictions’.
The Citizen Lab said the RIM Check project is aimed at ensuring transparency and is ‘inspired by a broad need to monitor the activities of private sector actors that own and operate cyberspace, particularly as they come under increasing pressure to cooperate with governments on national surveillance and censorship laws, policies, and requests’.
It said, ‘Decisions taken by private sector actors, often at the behest of governments seeking access to their data or assistance blocking websites, can have major consequences for human rights. These decisions can lack transparency and public accountability.’
The RIM Check will gather information on how traffic exits the BlackBerry network in a particular country. Data collected from the website over an extended period of time will be analysed.
‘Field research and policy analysis will also be employed to complement the technical collection activities. The Information Warfare Monitor (in charge of project) will also be analysing for evidence of content filtering on Blackberry devices,’ the statement said.
The Citizen Lab is a technology and human rights research centre at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs.
RIM has not commented on the project.
(Gurmukh Singh can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)