British politician wants Blackberry Messenger shut off during riots
BlackBerry manufacturer Research in Motion has offered to assist British authorities in tracking down those participating in the riots across the UK, it said Monday. The move irked supporters of the rioters, and RIM's blog was subsequently hacked in retaliation.
It has also gotten the attention of British politicians. David Lammy, a member of parliament from the riot-stricken north London suburb of Tottenham, has called for the BlackBerry Messenger service to be shut down in the country. "This is one of the reasons why unsophisticated criminals are outfoxing an otherwise sophisticated police force," he lamented.
UK law enforcement says that riot participants are using BBM in addition to traditional social media channels. Communications through the platform are secure and practically impossible for government authorities to monitor without some type of assistance from RIM itself. Lammy alluded to the encryption as a large reason why police have so far struggled to contain the violence.
Rioters are flaunting the government's difficulty in tracking them through BBM, and have used it to coordinate attacks. British daily The Guardian has posted several such messages on its website.
"Everyone from all sides of London meet up at the heart of London (central) OXFORD CIRCUS!!, Bare SHOPS are gonna get smashed up so come get some (free stuff!!!) fuck the feds we will send them back with OUR riot! >:O Dead the ends and colour war for now so if you see a brother... SALUT! if you see a fed... SHOOT!" a message sent Sunday read.
Obviously, RIM has an interest in distancing itself from any responsibility. In a statement, it said it would cooperate with UK Police, and sympathized with those impacted most by the riots.
"We have engaged with the authorities to assist in any way we can," a statement read. "As in all markets around the world where BlackBerry is available, we cooperate with local telecommunications operators, law enforcement, and regulatory officials."
Those comments angered hacktivist group TeaMp0isoN, which hacked into RIM's BlackBerry blog on Monday night. It claimed that releasing such information would implicate innocent people, and threatened to release sensitive information including the addresses of RIM employees to rioters.
"Do you really want a bunch of angry youths on your employees doorsteps?" it threatened. "We do not condone in innocent people being attacked in these riots nor do we condone in small businesses being looted, but we are all for the rioters that are engaging in attacks on the police and government."
It attempted to justify the release of the information by saying that the RIM employees would be the ones assisting UK law enforcement, and thus would not be innocent bystanders. Regardless, any attacks on employees of the company would likely implicate anyone associated with TeaMp0isoN as accessories in a crime regardless.
RIM had not issued a public response to TeaMp0isoN's threat as of Tuesday afternoon.