Police investigating those responsible for the London riots will be able to track down and arrest them based on their BlackBerry Messenger communication with others who took part. Hit the jump to read the rest of the story.
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BlackBerry owners using the private social network to message each other and plan unrest could find their personal information â€“ including their names and those of their contacts â€“ handed over to police as part of their investigation.
The BlackBerry-maker, Research In Motion, on Monday vowed to cooperate with the Scotland Yard inquiry following claims that BlackBerry Messenger played a key role in helping to organise the violence.
David Lammy, the MP for Tottenham, on Tuesday appealed for the Canadian manufacturer to shut down BlackBerry Messenger in attempt to stem further unrest.
Information about those sending messages about the London riots on the covert social network, which is only available to BlackBerry owners, will be of great interest to police. Three teenagers were arrested earlier on Tuesday on suspicion of inciting rioting via Facebook.
Research In Motion (RIM) could hand over information about rioters â€“ including their names, the number of messages sent and received, the names of people they sent messages to, the time they were sent, and the location â€“ without being issued with a warrant by the police.
However, police officers would have to be granted a warrant in order to force RIM to hand over the contents of users’ “broadcasts”.
Mike Conradi, the partner and telecoms specialist at London law firm DLA Piper, said: “It would be unlawful of RIM to disclose the contents of messages without a warrant issued by a senior police figure or a secretary of state â€“ but that doesn’t mean [RIM] couldn’t disclose information that would be helpful to the police.”
Conradi added the names, contacts and times of prominent BlackBerry Messenger users would allow police to draw up “quite a detailed picture” of which rioters to pinpoint and obtain a warrant for.
A clause in the Data Protection Act allows companies to hand over an individual’s private information if it is in the interests of national security or if it allows for the detection and possible prevention of crime.
Research In Motion declined to comment. On Monday the company emphasised that it complies with UK legislation on the interception of communication and co-operates fully with the Home Office.
Lammy said BlackBerry Messenger was “one of the reasons why unsophisticated criminals are outfoxing an otherwise sophisticated police force”.
He added: “BBM is different as it is encrypted and police can’t access it.”
However, only BlackBerry devices used by enterprises and large corporations use sophisticated encryption software. Regular consumer handsets bought on the high street employ less sophisticated security, meaning RIM can view messages sent from those devices via its servers.
Computer hackers defaced the RIM official blog earlier on Tuesday in a retaliatory attack over the company’s pledge to assist the ongoing police investigation.
The hackers, who called themselves TeamPoison, posted a message on the site that read: “You Will _NOT_ assist the UK Police because if u do innocent members of the public who were at the wrong place at the wrong time and owned a blackberry will get charged for no reason at all, the Police are looking to arrest as many people as possible to save themselves from embarrassment.”