BlackBerry's Latest Banishment Threat - Indonesia

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in ,, at 12/30/2011 06:03:00 AM
The sheer difficulty of cracking BlackBerry encryption has made several states wary of the Research In Motion service operating in their countries. As a compromise on national security-esque grounds, the Canadian firm RIM has located its servers within the countries that raise such concerns instead of at home--most famously the UAE:
Last year, the UAE threatened to suspend BlackBerry Messenger, email and web browser services unless RIM worked out a way to locate its encrypted computer servers in the country so the state could get access to email and other data -- the same access it says the United States, Russia and other states have.
That concession granted to some, it appears Indonesia is now complaining about how Singapore was made the location of RIM's Southeast Asia servers instead of the region's largest nation and largest user of the popular BlackBerry service. The mooted penalty for this betrayal of sorts is (once again) banning BlackBerry from operating in Indonesia. Via the Jakarta Post:
The Indonesian Telecommunication Regulation Body (BRTI) says that it may have to end the BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) service on all BlackBerry after the smartphone’s manufacturer, Research In Motion (RIM), opted to build a server in Singapore rather than in Indonesia.

“Because RIM has not been cooperative, it is possible that we will soon end BIS (BlackBerry Internet Service) and BBM service. BlackBerry therefore, would just be like other cellular phones,” BRTI member Heru Sutadi told The Jakarta Post on Friday.
The Indonesian government claims that, aside from the usual national security request, RIM indicated that it would build the server in Indonesia before its act of info-treachery:
In September, RIM made a commitment with the government to carry out four agreements by Dec. 31. One of the agreements called for the establishment of a server or a data center. Although the agreement did not specify where the server would be built, the government felt that RIM should make Indonesia a priority as it was home to the most BlackBerry users in Southeast Asia, far exceeding the number of users in Singapore.

The government’s insistence on having a server built in the country was mainly due to security reasons, Heru said. Currently, all data exchanged through the BIS and BBM is processed in Canada, the home of RIM, which makes it impossible for the government to monitor and protect data sent by its millions of Indonesian users.

“With the condition as it is now, we warn that the country’s users to be cautious about using BlackBerry because the data exchanged is not safe or cannot be guaranteed of its safety,” he said.
While the idea that Indonesian users are more at risk now that RIM servers are in Singapore than they were before when the servers were in Canada is risible, I remain a believer that information flows within a nation remain a state's prerogative despite insipid notions to the contrary. Insofar as we haven't moved past notions of state sovereignty to something akin to world government, firms must play by national rules for better or worse.

To be sure, the longstanding presence of active separatist movements and terrorist groups may make Indonesia more legitimately entitled in raising information security concerns. It's too bad that Indonesia appears to want punishing RIM for commercial reasons as well. But, it's a price you have to pay in a world where extraterritoriality does not apply.