BlackBerry CEO John Chen is proud to say that privacy concerns are built into the DNA of his company, a trait he says sets BlackBerry apart from data-hungry tech giants like Facebook and Google.
But with the Internet of Things promising to make our daily lives even more connected and accounted for, Chen believes that the customer as well as the data-mining companies have a role to play in securing personal privacy.
On Wednesday, BlackBerry announced its fourth quarter 2017 financial results, boasting revenue and adjusted earnings that came in above consensus estimates. The Waterloo, Ontario-based company posted revenue from its enterprise software and services business of US$108 million, a 19 per cent increase, while its intellectual property licensing and automotive software divisions also showed growth.
“We have three businesses that make up our software business and all three of them have been doing very well,” said Chen in conversation with BNN. “For the next fiscal year, we are expecting double-digit growth.”
With its QNX operating system, BlackBerry’s autonomous vehicle division is lining up deals with major car manufacturers, the latest being an agreement with Jaguar Land Rover to have BlackBerry help design the company’s next-generation vehicles.
But the road to public acceptance of so-called driverless cars just got longer with the death of a woman in Tempe, Arizona, who was hit by a self-driving vehicle. Chen says that in the end, the proof is in the studies that say that autonomous vehicles will actually make our roads safe. “I don’t think it will need a lot of convincing,” says Chen. “I think the statistics will speak for themselves. You and I have better things to do than drive our cars.”
In terms of data security and privacy —topics of high concern at the moment with social media company Facebook currently embroiled in controversy surrounding data sharing— Chen says that BlackBerry’s stance has always been clear.
“From Day One, we’ve never monetized customers’ data, we don’t keep a copy of their data,” says Chen. “We fully respect their privacy. We are so binary different from everything that’s going on out there.”
Chen says the current discussion is a healthy one not just for companies who profit from sharing data but for individuals who need to be more informed about the role they themselves play in security and privacy matters.
“I’m glad that this has gone on because the awareness needs to be there,” says Chen. “But this is not only the company’s fault, I’m afraid to say it’s [also] the user’s fault. We have thrown away a lot of our privacy and let go of it for convenience.”
“I’m glad that this has become a debate,” he says. “I’m sure that there will be some movement back to the centre, so to speak, and it’s the right thing to do. Forget about the business side of the equation, this is from a society point of view. It is the right thing that we should be able to manage and protect our own individual privacy and data.”