While Apple recently fought the US Department of Justice in court over an order to create new software to help unlock a terror suspect's phone—and has pledged to continue to do so—Canada's police and device manufacturers have been comparatively silent on the issue. Now, for the first time, Canadians have a clearer picture of how digital surveillance in this country works, at least when it comes to BlackBerry phones, although much is still unknown.The revelations could also spell bad news for BlackBerry, which has struggled financially in recent years and built its brand on the supposed security of its messaging system. During the case, witnesses from the RCMP and BlackBerry testified that revealing BlackBerry's encryption key would be, in short, bad for business.
"So right now, with my device, if I'm not on the [Business Enterprise Server], I'm a dead chicken. That's the reality of it, that's what we don't want the general public to know"
The defence initially argued that the RCMP should disclose the global encryption key in court, but it was ultimately considered privileged and withheld. If the key used in Project Clemenza was revealed in open court, Boismenu said, then it would "essentially mean to disclose a key that would unlock the doors of all the houses of the people who use the provider's services, and that, without their knowledge."The key, according to Boismenu, is so powerful that it could be used to "illegitimately" decipher any "prerecorded communications encrypted with that key"—so it's striking that the RCMP had access to it.Indeed, Crown attorney Robert Rouleau stated in an ex parte hearing: "So right now, with my device, if I'm not on the [Business Enterprise Server], I'm a dead chicken. That's the reality of it, that's what we don't want the general public to know."Disclosing such a key would be disastrous for BlackBerry, the court heard. BlackBerry director of national security Alan Treddenick said in an affidavit from November of 2015 that disclosing the key used in Project Clemenza would "potentially impact relationships with other BlackBerry end-users and law enforcement criminal investigations globally for all foreign countries that BlackBerry operates and provides communication services," and in Canada.
"It is not a good marketing thing to say we work with the police"
While Apple fought the US Department of Justice in court over a request to create new software to help unlock an iPhone used by a terror suspect, BlackBerry has been very explicit about its intent to work with, and not against, law enforcement when it comes to encryption.
"People are willing to say things or do things online when they believe that they enjoy security"