Is Privacy a Privilege? Blackberry Thinks So

Is Privacy a Privilege? Blackberry Thinks So

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This year, we finally received a long-rumored Android device from Blackberry. Aside from the hardware uniqueness, the Blackberry Priv boasted some other features that would make the Priv worth owning. According to Blackberry, and written right on the box, the name “Priv” stands for privacy and privilege.

The CEO of Blackberry, John Chen, has repeatedly stressed the importance of privacy and how the Priv helps users protect their information.Priv_Box

In a blog post from October John Chen writes:

PRIV will be the solution for smartphone users who are learning daily of the lack of privacy they have on their current devices.

Blackberry’s own marketing material also touts the privacy benefits offered by the Priv :

Rest assured that your experience is unimpeded and your privacy is under your control.

In another John Chen official blog post he mentions:

There’s the unique key ‎in the chipset of every PRIV smartphone to authenticate the Android OS, so users can be confident their PRIV is not running malicious firmware that could violate their privacy or security.

It seems very clear that Blackberry likes to use the privacy concerns of users as a competitive advantage and a selling point of their software and services. However, with a December 15th blog post, John Chen may have shown Blackberry’s true colors.

The blog post is titled “The Encryption Debate: a Way Forward”, and obviously focuses heavily on the current topic of encryption and messaging applications. In the post, Chen attacks Apple, saying:

In fact, one of the world’s most powerful tech companies recently refused a lawful access request in an investigation of a known drug dealer because doing so would “substantially tarnish the brand” of the company. We are indeed in a dark place when companies put their reputations above the greater good.

Chen goes on to say “our privacy commitment does not extend to criminals”. The implication here is, essentially, that Blackberry is willing to assume someone is a criminal, based on the fact that law enforcement wants to search their device. 

The obvious questions are, who defines what a “criminal” is, and how can you create a system that “protects the privacy” of, specifically, non-criminals? What does “the greater good” consist of? These might sound philosophical more so than technological, but inescapably so — is Blackberry willing to listen to any government, however silly or nefarious their definitions of “criminal” and “greater good” might be, and provide them with the private data of others?

This attitude from Blackberry may be worth careful consideration — particularly if one is about to spend big money on a phone from a company that may not actually care about the right to privacy. And I will put emphasis on that word, right to privacy. A privilege and a right are not the same thing, and knowing the difference is as important as understanding the difference between freedom and slavery. 

Do you agree with Blackberry? Let us know in the comments down below!