BlackBerry offers lawful interception for devices, but no backdoors

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BlackBerry offers lawful interception for devices, but no backdoors
BlackBerry Priv.

Wants to differentiate from rivals offering end-to-end encryption.

Mobile device maker BlackBerry is taking a different tack in the encryption debate, saying its smartphones have lawful interception capabilities for government surveillance purposes.

BlackBerry chief operating officer Marty Beard told the FedTalks government information technology summit in the United States that the company takes a balanced approach on interception.

According to Fedscoop, which first reported Beard's remarks, this approach differentiates Blackberry from its competitors, who are "all about encryption all the way."

When asked if Beard's comments meant the company's devices would contain backdoors, a BlackBerry Australia spokesperson said encryption was very important to protect governments, business and individuals from hacking.

"That’s why so many world leaders and CEOs rely on BlackBerry to protect their data," the spokesperson said.

"At the same time, no one wants to see terrorists and criminals taking advantage of encryption to evade detection. 

"That’s why we have always strongly supported law enforcement around the world when they need our help."

The spokesperson said the company did not support backdoors, but BlackBerry and "every other tech company bears a responsibility to do all we can to help governments protect their citizens.".

The nature of the interception capability in BlackBerry phones was not disclosed.

Western security agencies and governments have increasingly started to demand that device vendors weaken or break encryption to allow for surveillance and interception.

The demands have fallen on deaf ears with large parts of the tech industry, which is concerned about losing customer trust following former United States National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden's revelations of automated mass surveillance by spy organisations.

Apple chief executive Tim Cook has dug his heels in on encryption, saying the company would never pander to security agencies.

"I want to be absolutely clear that we have never worked with any government agency from any country to create a backdoor in any of our products or services," he said.

"We have also never allowed access to our servers. And we never will."

BlackBerry has over recent years lost significant market share to Apple and smartphone vendors using Google's Android platform. 

The company is attempting to stage a comeback, releasing the Priv smartphone running Android in September this year. Priv emphasises privacy and security, which have been historical areas of strength for the Canadian smart device maker.

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