Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Too Much Encryption Killed BlackBerry, According to a Former NSA Lawyer

Jemima Kiss, reporting for the Guardian:

[Former NSA general counsel Stewart] Baker said encrypting user data had been a bad business model for Blackberry, which has had to dramatically downsize its business and refocus on business customers. “Blackberry pioneered the same business model that Google and Apple are doing now – that has not ended well for Blackberry,” said Baker.

He claimed that by encrypting user data Blackberry had limited its business in countries that demand oversight of communication data, such as India and the UAE and got a bad reception in China and Russia.

That’s the best you’ve got, Baker?

Encrypting user data was and, in fact, has always been one of the highlights of the BlackBerry product range. It’s why the Pentagon has ordered boatloads of them, as recently as earlier this year. It’s one of the features former NSA chief Micheal Hayden praised:

Mr. Hayden said the BlackBerry has “baked in a heightened level of security from the beginning” and has an “inherent advantage” over other devices, but: “I bought an iPhone. What more can I say?”

So the US government and its most secretive factions praise the BlackBerry’s ability to encrypt data and have showered them with impressive contracts as a result.

Let’s look at Baker’s other claim: that this level of secrecy has resulted in limited adoption in places that demand less encryption, and that the increased security on iPhones and Android phones will cause their demise. Like Baker, we’ll start in India, where the iPhone has just had its best year of sales yet:

Apple has sold more than a million iPhones in India since its current fiscal year started in October, a major milestone for a company that wasn’t serious on the South Asian market until a couple of years ago.

The company didn’t reveal its India sales data, but industry research agencies put it at 1.02 million between October 2013 and August 2014. Sales are likely to reach 1.1 million units by the time Apple’s fiscal year ends on September 30.

A million phones in a country of a billion people doesn’t sound like much, but India is a developing nation. A majority of those phones are the 5S model, too — this report came out before the iPhones 6 were released there — which support more robust encryption that previous models.

How about the United Arab Emirates? While some iPhone functionality, like FaceTime, is disabled there, iPhones occupy three of the top five most-used smartphones in the country. A third-party company also launched a gold-plated iPhone in Dubai, which allegedly made Justin Bieber cry.

But back to Baker’s premise: was BlackBerry killed by too much encryption? No. They simply failed to keep up with the iPhone and, subsequently, Android phones that had big multitouch displays and a much better user experience. People simply bought the better product.

Intelligence agencies sure are scared shitless that they can’t read our text messages, though, aren’t they?