There has been a recent spate of reports regarding Research In Motion and their difficulties with various surveillance-oriented regimes (UAE, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan) demanding access to the emails sent from the famous and popular Blackberry mobile communications system. The most recent addition to the countries demanding such access is India. I find it interesting that they are targetting the Blackberry in this way. Standard email protocols provide exactly the same facility as the proprietary systems used by Blackberry and many other smartphone systems to send and receive email to remote servers with end-to-end encryption so that only if the user device is cracked or the server is located in-country, can the government access the communications data (modulo claims of encryption cracking capabilities of Forth Worth and GCHQ).

More flexible smartphones such as the iPhone, Mobile Windows- or Android-based systems can of course be set up with standard email servers anywhere in the world. Are these the next target, or are the users of Crackberries seen as the most likely to be “misusing” (according to the governments in question) email? This attempted fragmentation and re-bordering of the internet was analysed by Goldsmith and Wu a few years ago in Who Controls the Internet? Will open platforms such as the Android be banned in favour of iPhones but only if Apple follows RIM’s example and limits email apps to in-country servers? What about travel to these countries? Will entry into Pakistan with an iPhone be followed by a revocation of any app allowing out-of-country encrypted communications?