Why the NSA Doesn’t Want You to Have a BlackBerry

In a world where every detail of your life is scooped up and sliced and diced until each one of us is living our own little Truman Show, privacy is the enemy. Apple and Google harvest your data and share it with the BlackBerry not only doesn't harvest your data, it can't. The technology prohibits it.

In a world where every detail of your life is scooped up and sliced and diced until each one of us is living our own little Truman Show, privacy is the enemy. Apple and Google harvest your data and share it with the BlackBerry not only doesn’t harvest your data, it can’t. The technology prohibits it.

It’s fluid. It’s fast. It’s fun. It’s sexy as hell. It has hella kick-ass apps. It blows your piece of crap dumbphone out of the water, and if you don’t believe me, let’s do a little side-by-side comparison sometime, and you’ll either shut up or buy one.

So I’m like, “Why has this amazing device, so fluid and fun and efficient, languished?” The sheer hatred I see for the BlackBerry brand confounds me at times; it seems pathological, almost, like some evil mind-control ray has been beamed on the American populace to make them hate something they’ve never tried with a 1984-like Two Minute Hate-type of hate. It’s just weird to me because I freakin’ love this device, and I am surrounded by the competition every day. Those phones are douchebag phones compared to my Z. Seriously, they don’t look smart to me. They look retarded.

So I was like, “What gives?”

Granted, BlackBerry has done an awful job of marketing these things. What few ads there have been have been weak. They should have licensed the song “Back in Black” and done a bad-ass, kick-ass, in-your-face campaign showing off their new badass line. Oh well. That’s what happens when you let technologists run a company — they create amazing technology but don’t know jack about selling it.


In a world where every detail of your life is scooped up and sliced and diced until each one of us is living our own little Truman Show, privacy is the enemy. Apple and Google harvest your data and share it with the NSA. BlackBerry not only doesn’t harvest your data, it can’t. The technology prohibits it.

That still doesn’t explain the raw hatred for the brand. From whence did this come? Then it dawned on me: Of all the incredible features on this thing, privacy is the one that certain powerful people probably wouldn’t like.

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In a world where every detail of your life is scooped up and sliced and diced until each one of us is living our own little Truman Show, privacy is the enemy. Apple and Google harvest your data and share it with the NSA. BlackBerry not only doesn’t harvest your data, it can’t. The technology prohibits it.

Your Apple or Android phone “phone home” to Apple or Google periodically. Apple or Google can reach into your device at any time and, for instance, delete an app. BlackBerry can’t do that. Someone would have to have physical access to my device to read my BBMs. It’s PIN to PIN and strongly encrypted, and it can only be decrypted on my device, not on the web, not on another BlackBerry.

With BB10, I can sync my contacts, calendar and files to my own home computer. I don't need a cloud service. So if I don't sync them to Google Calendar, the NSA has a tough row to hoe there.

With BB10, I can sync my contacts, calendar and files to my own home computer. I don’t need a cloud service. So if I don’t sync them to Google Calendar, the NSA has a tough row to hoe there.

Of course I harbor no delusions about the capabilities of the NSA. If they want my BBM messages, I’m sure they have the resources to intercept and decrypt them. Decryption is expensive, though. They definitely can’t decrypt all of the 100 million messages a day BBM sends. They would have to really want to read them to read them. Apple, on the other hand, hands over iMessage and all other data fairly regularly, it seems.

If they want my call history, they’ll get it from AT&T. If they want my contacts, they’ll find out where I sync them, and raid them there. Likewise the calendar.

But with BB10, I can sync my contacts, calendar and files to my own home computer. I don’t need a cloud service. So if I don’t sync them to Google Calendar, the NSA has a tough row to hoe there.

Maybe this has to do with the fact that Apple and Google are American companies. Maybe BlackBerry just isn’t as subject to the sort of “deal you can’t resist” persuasion the NSA can exert on those firms. Or maybe BlackBerry has decided that a key part of its business model is to provide truly secure communications. Maybe that’s why you still see a lot of BlackBerrys in places like New York, Chicago, Washington D.C, the City in London and anywhere big money changes hands. I really don’t know.

What I do know is that rocking a BlackBerry makes them work a bit harder at turning my life into the Truman Show. If I were a business, I would certainly be using BlackBerry, even if the NSA weren’t in the picture. You’d have to be insane to expose your business data — wholesale — to Google and Apple just because those brands are cool and your dumbass employees want them.

What else makes a BlackBerry more secure, beyond the fact that it doesn’t send all your data — all your pictures, access to your camera and microphone, etc. — to some Silicon Valley juggernaut? Three things:

-You have granular control over what permissions applications are given. If an app wants access to my location and I don’t think it needs it, I can tell it to screw off.

-You can turn off GPS and even carrier connectivity. BlackBerry Jane can stroll into her local coffee shop, connect to wifi, log into a throwaway gmail account and send cryptic messages about cute puppies to her buddy in Tel Aviv. The NSA will go nuts because all they will know is that somebody with a BlackBerry said, “My new Golden is SOOOO cute!”

-BBM is PIN-to-PIN and strongly encrypted. Sure, the NSA can intercept and decrypt it (I think) but they’d have to think you were a terrorist to go to the trouble, and that’s fine with me. It’s their job to catch terrorists, not to turn everybody’s life into the Truman Show.

All this negative bullshit about this absolutely amazing piece of technology (and if you haven’t used it, just STFU because you don’t know what you’re talking about) has baffled me until now. Now I’m filing it under “Things that make you go ‘hmmmm.’”

Whatever happens with BlackBerry the company, I am sure happy with my Z, and I’m proud to own the finest piece of mobile technology to date, despite what the lemmings think as they march ignorantly into the Fourth Amendment shredder.

Check out more from CharlieHipHop at his blog here.

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About Charlie HipHop

CharlieHipHop is a developer and musician in NYC who values his privacy.

  •  07thking

    Seems like the author made some valid points. Bashers here clearly haven’t used BB10 to the extent that some of us have. I use other platforms as well as a Q10 and simply put BB10 holds its own. I’m not going to fight anyone here, all I can say is when people ask me about my new BlackBerry (many have) I show them how I used it and they are always impressed.

  • Carsten Hatorp

    Great read, love my Z30!!

  •  07thking

    Also, if no-one is hating on BlackBerry why are some websites deliberately blocking BlackBerry’s browser from accessing content? What’s the deal? See we don’t need apps for some things, and which other platform out there will allow you to run apps from other platforms?

  • Lost at Sea

    Its interesting that the US Government, the US Military and most US Police use the BlackBerry but the big US phone companies do not put in much effort to sell these devices to the public. Really interesting. Snowden has even stated that Apple handed over access to NSA without a fight quite a few years ago.

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