BlackBerry and black magic

November 22, 2011


Research In Motion (the BlackBerry service provider) said that it never shares the data of a customer with a third party unless they are approached by the police.—AFP photo

ISLAMABAD: How many beans can a BlackBerry spill about its user? This is a question that arises as Memogate keeps Pakistan hooked.

Manoor Ijaz claims that he has handed over forensic evidence from his phone to the DG ISI while Ambassador Hussain Haqqani is reported to have said that his phone can be searched to prove that he never discussed the infamous memo with Ijaz.

But will the phones reveal who is telling the truth? Especially if both parties have had a chance to tamper with the phones and the records within.

However, no one in the federal government has moved to file a First Investigation Report (FIR) without which a probe into the affair cannot be initiated by a federal security agency to prove relevant parties guilty in legal proceedings in any court of law, say legal experts.

According to a telecom engineer, nothing can be called forensic evidence until an operator (in this case of Blackberry this is RIM) shares the data with a court of law or with a security agency.

When Dawn contacted the US headquarters of Research In Motion (the BlackBerry service provider) in Irving, Texas, the organisation maintained that it had a strict privacy policy and never shares the data of a customer with a third party unless they are approached by the police.

The Research In Motion helpline official, Danielle Mora, told Dawn: “We will not share our customers data with anyone until the police approaches us.”

She added: “Even if someone deletes all his messages from his chat, the person with whom he/she was chatting will have a record. The person on the other end still has a record that can be used in a court of law as evidence.”

She said there exists certain chat software which can be used to fabricate chat messages.

The RIM helpline official added: “If someone has purchased a BlackBerry mobile from the open market and not from a store in the US, then there is a possibility that he may be holding a different ID from the one the BlackBerry is registered to. In the US, if a BlackBerry set is purchased from a US store, then the original ID holder is issued the set and chances of deception are very rare.”

In other words, verifiable data from the service provider cannot be acquired without legal proceedings, legal experts concur.

An international legal expert requesting not to be named told Dawn that progress cannot be made without registering an FIR: “A state agency can initiate a probe after an FIR. Otherwise, all the talk is just controversy and rumours.”

The expert maintained that there is an understanding between Pakistan and several states called the 'Mutual Legal Assistance Framework' in which one state security agency can approach its counterparts anywhere in the world for assistance, such as when seeking evidence.

He said that an agency such as the Federal Investigation Agency's Cyber Crime Wing can register an FIR because the matter is related to the security of the state i.e., one individual has invited another state's (US) interference in Pakistan's affairs.

However, it remains to be seen whether or not any of the parties involved will want to go so far as to make 'investigations' a legal matter.

By Imran Ali Teepu