Photograph by Kevin Lamarque — AP

The company stops just short of saying it provides governments access via a back door.

By Jason Cipriani
November 18, 2015
November 18, 2015

BlackBerry’s philosophy about encryption and law enforcement requests is to take a “balanced approach,” according to chief operating officer Marty Beard.

His comment, reported by FedScoop from a conference of tech and government IT leaders in Washington DC, was aimed at setting BlackBerry apart from rivals that he described as being “all about encryption all the way.”

Encryption is a hot topic, thrust once again into the forefront of debates after the recent terrorist attacks in Paris. Lawmakers want easier access to would-be criminals’ data. Technology companies like Dell have proclaimed such access is a horrible idea.

When Fortune tried to clarify Beard’s statement, a BlackBerry spokeswoman provided the following:

Encryption is very important to protect governments, business and individuals from hacking. That’s why so many world leaders and CEOs rely on BlackBerry to protect their data. At the same time, no one wants to see terrorists and criminals taking advantage of encryption to evade detection. That’s why we have always strongly supported law enforcement around the world when they need our help. While we do not support so-called ‘back-doors,’ we and every other tech company bears a responsibility to do all we can to help governments protect their citizens.

The competitor Beard was referring to is likely Apple, a staunch supporter of encryption. Apple CEO Tim Cook has repeatedly touted Apple’s AAPL lack of a back door into the company’s’ products as a key selling point.

In theory, encryption back doors would let law enforcement peek into a suspect’s electronic communications without compromising the security of the overall platform. Cook says if a backdoor is present for the good guys, bad guys will find and take advantage of it. Furthermore, Apple’s privacy website claims it lacks the ability to unlock a customer’s device, nor can it decrypt your iMessage conversations in real time.

BlackBerry’s position on sharing data with government entities has changed throughout the years. In 2010, then BlackBerry co-CEO Mike Lazardis told The New York Times that his company wouldn’t give into government pressure. Three years later, BlackBerry struck a deal with Indian officials that provided access to real-time communications.

BlackBerry’s position in 2015 for protecting user data involves cooperating with governments in the name of safety. Exactly where “balance” comes into play, however, remains a mystery.

Find out more about privacy by watching this Fortune video:

 

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