Western reaction to news that United Arab Emirates planned to block BlackBerry services for security reasons was not initially positive. To many, it seemed the government was simply banning any devices that were too difficult to spy on. The Emirates are currently backing off their hard-line position. Today, though, Richard Falkenrath argues in The New York Times that it wasn't such a hard-line position to begin with.
There is a reason, Falkenrath points out, that these Big Brothers want to watch: "Just as professionals depend on mobile devices to do their jobs, law enforcement and intelligence officers depend on electronic surveillance to do theirs." Falkenrath, a former deputy commissioner for counterterrorism in the New York Policy Deparment, explains that "monitoring electronic communications in real time and retrieving stored electronic data" are "the most important counterterrorism techniques available to governments today."
In fact, the U.S. demands a "back door into the telecommunications services used inside its borders" as well: "telecommunications providers are generally required to provide a mechanism for such access by the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act of 1994 and related regulations issued by the Federal Communications Commission." Some telecommunications are still difficult to handle, he continues: "hence the envy some American intelligence officials felt about the Emirates' decision." Finally, he draws a comparison between the BlackBerry situation and other recent company-state conflicts:
Research in Motion is learning a lesson that other companies have learned before. As we saw in 2000 with Yahoo’s failed attempt to maintain a forum to sell Nazi memorabilia in France, and with Google’s repeated attempts in recent years to deliver uncensored search results in China, no provider of information services is exempt from the power of the state.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.