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Research In Motion (RIM) has offered to help UK police forces in tracking down rioters and looters after several days of violence and destruction in London and other cities. “We feel for those impacted by this weekend’s riots in London. We have engaged with the authorities to assist in any way we can,” Patrick Spence, managing director of global sales. Despite our questions, RIM refused to specify in how it will cooperate with the police, but we expect that the focus will be on its Blackberry Messenger service, which is believed to have been used to organise rioting and looting.
“As in all markets around the world where BlackBerry is available, we cooperate with local telecommunications operators, law enforcement and regulatory officials,” Spence told us. “Similar to other technology providers in the UK we comply with The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act and co-operate fully with the Home Office and UK police forces.” The RIP Act could allow the UK police to force RIM to hand over information from its encrypted network, which can only be accessed through RIM’s master keys, which it reserves for special legal situations like the one that has arisen over the weekend.
The riots, which began on Saturday night in response to the fatal shooting of a man by police, have caused havoc across London, with several ‘copycat’ riots erupting in other cities across the UK. Many people have been injured, shops have been looted, and a number of buildings have been set on fire.
The London Metropolitan Police has thousands of officers on duty to tackle the disruption. This number will swell to 16,000 over the next 24 hours. So far there have been around 450 confirmed arrests. This figure will likely grow over the coming days and could reach into the thousands if RIM agrees to hand over incriminating data to the police.