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Canadian Commissioner Wants Officials to Stop Using BBM

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Canada’s information commissioner Suzanne Legault has asked government officials to stop using BlackBerry Messenger, as encrypted messaging is being used to keep messages away from public view, contrary to the law. According to The New York Times, the commissioner has concluded after a lengthy investigation that the BlackBerry Messenger service must be shut down on all government phones.

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It is no secret in Ottawa that BBM is the medium of choice when bureaucrats wish to keep their communications hidden from view. Ms. Legault therefore asked the government to archive its instant messages on servers, as it does with email, because the law requires the government to retain “any documentary material, regardless of medium or form”. But when the government declined, citing the cost of storage and the burden of searching old messages to complete information access requests, Ms. Legault concluded that the only alternative was shutting down BBM on phones used by officials.

Tony Clement, the cabinet minister in the Conservative government who is responsible for government technology, however rejected that idea.

While his department, the Treasury Board, complained to Ms. Legault that there is too much B.B.M. traffic to archive, Mr. Clement took an opposite tack and suggested that the service is more of a personal convenience for bureaucrats than a business tool. 

“We’ve got lots of public servants who are parents, and maybe they want to make sure their child is O.K., or a quick message that their child has come home safely from school,” Mr. Clement told reporters. “Those messages are not meant to be captured by a whole infrastructure.”

So unless the Parliament overturns Mr. Clement’s formal rejection of shutting down BBM for officials, bureaucrats can continue to use the service.

Do you guys think the government officials should be allowed to use BBM for encrypted communication?

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  • Candy Curl

    If the government workers BB is being funded by me, the taxpayer, then yeah, I should have access to whatever info is happening on that device. Admittedly, I know it’s common for folks to use whatever device is most accessible to communicate with friends and family. TBS if your means of communication is not being paid for by you, but by “we the people” then what happens on it is my business.

    I don’t really care though.

  • Rick

    Anything I do on my corporate iPhone belongs to my employer. I get it. I understand it, and I respect it. For that reason I carry my own phone independent of the corporate phone.

  • SV650

    It becomes ridiculous at some point. “Any documentary material, regardless of medium or form” includes phone message slips, notes made on sticky-notes, all kinds of minutiae that can’t readily be classified, catalogued or sensibly retrieved. The effort put into managing this becomes enormous. Additionally, it is not just the federal government this applies to, but potentially any public of quasi-public body, including such institutions as schools and colleges. This burden is paid by the taxpayer, and if it has little value, has great cost of maintenance.

    If individuals want to avoid scrutiny, they will find more inventive ways to avoid creating a record.

    Like Rick, I carry a personal phone independent of that supplied by my employer. I do not understand the acceptance of the idea of BYOD, and have some difficulty with the idea of using a corporate phone for personal use. Though to a certain level it is very nearly unavoidable.

  • Chrome262

    who cares, they can use texts to communicate with family if they want. And texts are hard to pull off phones as well lol.

  • erth

    we pay for it, so yes, it should be accessible to a auditor. i suggest they take away their phones and make them pay for it themselves. you know, we have a deficit that needs to be dealt with. start cutting till it hurts.

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