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French Government BlackBerry use Curtailed

News first surfaced earlier this week that sections of the French government were enacting guidelines that limits (bans) the use of the BlackBerry handheld email device by Government employees. The chief reason being given for the bans is that with the network traffic associated with the device passing through North American servers, there are concerns about the ability of foreign intelligence services (US) being able to spy on the traffic (even though the BlackBerry servers are based in Canada).

On the surface, the claims could be interpreted as scaremongering or xenophobia, but with international espionage alive and well, it isn't as silly as it first sounds. While news of claimed British and Russian espionage activities have dominated news stories in recent historiy (British embassy in Moscow, Polonium-210 poisoning), the US hasn't avoided coverage of espionage activity within European borders. The most recent significant case was hacking of the Greek mobile phone network, but the US has previously used communication intercepts from France to give Boeing commercial advantage over Airbus in competitive bidding on airline purchases.

So far the BlackBerry ban has had mixed results, with some successful bans, and some not so successful.

Government bans on IT equipment from foreign countries does have precedent. The US government raised concerns about sourcing computer hardware from Lenovo following the sale of IBM's consumer hardware division to the Chinese company. Even though the hardware is still being assembled and shipped from the same factories, the change of ownership was enough to prompt the concerns.

23 June 2007

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