April 25, 2011 / 11:18 AM / 7 years ago

BlackBerry firm seeks security "balance" in Russia

MOSCOW (Reuters) - BlackBerry maker Research In Motion said Russia could help development of new technologies by finding a balance between state security and innovation.

Visitors pass an advertising banner showing a Blackberry mobile at the CeBIT computer fair in Hanover March 2, 2011. REUTERS/Tobias Schwarz

Co-chief executive Jim Balsillie said on Monday the Canadian company had “ambitious plans” in Russia and offered President Dmitry Medvedev — an avid user of Apple’s iPad — a new Blackberry tablet at a meeting on developing new technology.

RIM, whose BlackBerry products are used by executives and politicians including U.S. President Barack Obama, has faced demands from countries such as India and Saudi Arabia to give authorities access to its encrypted communications services.

Speaking to reporters before the Medvedev meeting, Balsillie said: “A very important (question) for Russia is how do they balance the need for letting innovative things happen, but managing state security.

Many countries grapple with this around the world,” he said, adding a balance was needed that “allows innovation to happen, but still state security to be looked after”.

India this year demanded full access to BlackBerry services as part of efforts to fight militancy and security threats over the internet and through telephone communications.

RIM said in January it has given India the means to access its Messenger service but reiterated no changes could be made to allow the monitoring of secure corporate emails.

RIM encrypts email messages as they travel between a BlackBerry device and a computer known as BlackBerry Enterprise Server. The company has said it does not have a master key to decode these emails and only the sponsoring business or organization has the technical capability to grant access to encrypted enterprise email.


Russia’s two biggest carriers began offering BlackBerry services in late 2007, after years of negotiations between RIM and the Federal Security Service (FSB) that did not involve handing over encryption codes.

The FSB domestic spy service called earlier this month for access to encrypted communication providers like Gmail, Hotmail and Skype, saying uncontrolled use of such services could threaten national security.

Russia’s communications minister, Igor Shchyogolev, told Reuters ahead of Medvedev’s meeting the government wanted international companies like RIM to be present on the Russian market, offering “the most up-to-date technologies”.

“If there are some network security demands, and they exist globally, we need to seek compromise to provide security and at the same time not to set up barriers for companies,” he said.

Balsillie said Russia was still a relatively small market for RIM meaning it had “extremely ambitious plans to sell Blackberry in Russia, invest in R&D, (and) also to invest in start-ups”.

Writing by Maria Kiselyova and Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Dan Lalor

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