BlackBerry-maker Research in Motion has become embroiled in a diplomatic scandal in Pakistan, after the government asked the company to hand over records of a controversial conversation between a diplomat and US businessman.
The scandal relates to the allegation, made last October by Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz, that the government sought US assistance in overthrowing the country’s powerful military.
In a column for the Financial Times, Ijaz claimed that he had been given a memo to pass to the US government. The memo, which was later published by Foreign Policy magazine, requested "direct intervention" from the US in combatting the military, which it claimed was plotting to bring down "the civilian apparatus".
Pakistan’s ambassador to the US Hassan Haqqani resigned after the memo was released, but denied any involvement in the affair. However, Pakistani media have published what they claim to be a transcript of a BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) conversation between Ijaz and Haqqani discussing the memo.
Yesterday, the judicial commission investigating the ‘Memogate‘ scandal asked RIM to hand over records of BBM conversation between Ijaz and Haqqani.
"Like others in our industry, from time to time, we may receive requests from legal authorities for lawful access assistance," RIM said in a statement. "We are guided by appropriate legal processes and publicly disclosed lawful access principles in this regard as we balance any such requests against our priority of maintaining the privacy rights of our users."
The popularity of BBM has lead to a number requests for RIM to allow interception by world governments as, unlike its corporate email service, RIM hosts BBM messages itself. In 2010, RIM granted the Indian government the ability to intercept BBM messages, and in the UK is believed to have handed over BBM transcripts to police investigating last year’s riots.