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BlackBerry CEO Defends Giving Canada Access to Some Consumer Account Info

John Chen said any assistance was provided based on company policies, while assuring businesses and governments that their data remains protected.

BlackBerry CEO John Chen took to the Web on Monday trying to explain how it was that Canadian officials came to possess the keys needed to decrypt consumer messages sent via BlackBerry’s servers.

Chen tried to draw a fine line, painting the company as both willing to comply with legal orders but still dedicated to protecting the government and business data that remains the bread and butter of the struggling mobile company.

“Regarding BlackBerry’s assistance, I can reaffirm that we stood by our lawful access principles,” Chen said in a blog post on Monday. “We have long been clear in our stance that tech companies as good corporate citizens should comply with reasonable lawful access requests.”

Chen did not specifically say what kind of aid it gave the government. In particular, the company didn’t address a key charge that it handed over what amounted to a skeleton key unlocking all consumer messages sent via BlackBerry Messenger.

He did stress that companies that install their own BlackBerry Enterprise Server systems hold their own keys and BlackBerry doesn’t have access to any back doors to offer governments or anyone else.

“Our BES continues to be impenetrable — also without the ability for back door access — and is the most secure mobile platform for managing all mobile devices,” Chen said. “That’s why we are the gold standard in government and enterprise-grade security.”

Chen’s comments followed a Vice/Motherboard report last week that Canadian authorities gained access to a universal tool for decrypting consumer BlackBerry accounts.

And of course it comes as Apple has been loudly fighting a number of U.S. government demands that it help break into encrypted data stored on iPhones.

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