(AP) PARIS – BlackBerry handhelds have been called addictive, invasive, wonderful – and now, a threat to French state secrets.
That, at least, is the fear of French government defense experts, who have advised against their use by officials in France’s corridors of power, reportedly to avoid snooping by U.S. intelligence agencies.
“It’s not a question of trust,” French lawmaker Pierre Lasbordes told The Associated Press. “We are friends with the Americans, the Anglo-Saxons, but it’s economic war.”
Le Monde newspaper, which broke the story, described BlackBerry withdrawal among those who have given them up. “We feel that we are wasting huge amounts of time, having to relearn how to work in the old way,” the daily quoted a ministry office director as saying.
E-mails sent from “Le BlackBerry” pass through servers in the United States and Britain, and France fears that makes the system vulnerable to snooping by the U.S. National Security Agency, Le Monde reported. The company that makes BlackBerrys, however, denies such spying is possible.
Lasbordes, who was commissioned in 2005 by then-Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin to look into such issues, said he alerted the government to this “weakness” months ago. He said he met with BlackBerry maker Research In Motion Ltd. to discuss the problem in the course of preparing his report on the security of French information systems.
The Canadian company “admitted that there was a certain fragility in the protection of information when you use the e-mail system” and promised it would be resolved, said Lasbordes, adding: “That was more than a year ago.”
BlackBerrys pose “a problem with the protection of information” and “the risks of interception are real,” Alain Juillet, in charge of economic intelligence for the government, told Le Monde.
Research In Motion insisted that BlackBerry e-mails cannot be read by the NSA or other organizations. The e-mails are more heavily encrypted than online banking Web sites, Research In Motion said in a statement.