Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Security versus Privacy

Middle Eastern countries such as Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates have imposed a ban on Blackberry's messaging services.

The reason? It's too secure.

Blackberry maker Research in Motion (RIM) offers its users a secure system where they can safely and freely send messages. Intercepted messages sent through a Blackberry would only yield gibberish, as the encryption scrambles the letters and words. Users have their own keys to encode and decode the data. The second line of defense is its offshore storage facility (which is probably in Canada, home of RIM). This is what the Arab countries are assailing as unacceptable. They demand access to the data in instances of national security. Governments want a "backdoor" through which they can access the information.

Phones other than the Blackberry rely on the wireless network providers' infrastructure to store data. They keep the information within the territory where they operate, but nevertheless guarantee security and privacy.

Should the Philippines be alarmed, and thus follow suit? Especially considering our reputation as a terrorist/kidnapping hub and close ally of the United States, this becomes an endearing consideration. Or is privacy still superior as it is contained in the Bill of Rights? The Constitution requires a court order, unless public safety or order otherwise requires a violation of privacy.

At the very least, a balancing of interest is required: public order and security as the government's duty to the people, and privacy of communication that individuals and businesses require.

I see it as a question of what we want to be protected against: external threats, or our own government?

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