Update: BlackBerry data security study underway
Scientists in Toronto hope to discover how data traffic is handled in various countries
Research in Motion is again under the spotlight as University of Toronto scientists begin a study on BlackBerry to find out how the phones' data traffic is handled in countries such as the UAE, where it has been under serious scrutiny for security reasons.
RIM has been under pressure from various governments in the Middle East and Asia to allow them to access encrypted data directly from BlackBerry phones. Scientists at the University say that there is a need to monitor who is accessing what.
According to a press release from the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University; "Unconfirmed reports have circulated that RIM has made data sharing agreements with India and Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Other countries are also requesting the company locate data centers within their jurisdictions."
The research website, created by the Information Warfare Monitor and maintained by the Munk School, has been designed to gather data on how traffic exits the BlackBerry network, depending on the country in which the user is located.
"The first stage is simply a visit to a website we set up to capture some automatic data [user agent and IP address]. We are asking users to input some supplemental data about their service and country. We will subject the data collected to data analysis, further technical interrogation, and field research," Professor Ronald Deibert, director of The Canada Centre for Global Security Studies and the Citizen Lab, Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto told ITP.net.
Citizen Lab scientists say that the project is driven by the need to monitor the activities of private sector companies that are in charge of cyberspace. This, they say is particularly necessary in regions, such as the Middle East, where companies are under increasing pressure via censorship laws and policies, to work with governments.
"It is a global collection project, although we will refine our search to focus on those countries which have pressured RIM or around which there are concerns about data sharing with RIM," said Professor Deibert.
The governments in India, Saudi Arabia and the UAE cited terrorism risks as to why they wanted to access user information.
Professor Deibert says that he hopes this study will raise awareness about the issues surrounding data sharing in circumstances where private companies who own and operate the infrastructure are being pressured by governments to comply.