If you’re a fan of high-powered mobile devices then you’ve probably heard about the proposed bans on BlackBerry services in Asia and the Middle East. I myself am of the opinion that the concerns of these governments are justified, as they are only seeking access to the same levels of surveillance that already exist here in North America.
Permit me to illustrate with three popular smartphone makers and their hosted email solutions:
It is a known fact that Chinese cyber-attacks on Google were made possible through a back-door mandated by the United States Government. From CNN:
In order to comply with government search warrants on user data, Google created a backdoor access system into Gmail accounts.
This is not to say (necessarily) that Gmail users are constantly being spyed upon, but that the opportunity is there for the taking at the very least.
Same deal — though if you got a BlackBerry as an electronic leash to the office it’s more likely to be your boss spying on your email than Homeland Security.
Sorry, Apple’s crippled Internet appliance is subject to my own ban, for reasons explained on one of this blog’s very first posts.
Just to show I’m not playing favourites here, Nokia is giving the government of India the ability to monitor traffic on its own hosted messaging service. No doubt they would do the same in the USA and Canada, had the service enough users to warrant it. Yeah, I went there…
To be clear, I’m not a fan of excessive government surveillance anywhere. But if Uncle Sam can spy on BlackBerry users in the Middle East, why can’t local authorities enjoy the same privilege?
And I’m not so naive to think that email traffic through my desktop computer is exempt from being tapped, though in Canada I do have a few rights to privacy via the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act.
I guess my point is that this type of surveillance should be a matter between your government and your ISP — adding a hosted, possibly monitored email service into the mix gives Big Brother a leg up and you less control over your own data.
For users and their privacy the simple POP clients found on many dumb phones may well end up being the smartest way to get email on the go…