As well being practically blamed for the rioting in London and elsewhere this summer, BlackBerry makers RIM look to be in the firing line yet again; this time for peddling smut to hapless, horny teenagers.
It seems that that a quirk of how BlackBerry phones handle data means that users of the phones able to bypass the 18+ rated content filters that are put in place by the UK networks.
Data flows through the BlackBerry Internet Service, usually highlighted as coming ‘included’ with the data plans of contracts, rather than via the networks. Therefore the automatic filters are bypassed, in a similar way to how they wouldn’t work if someone really determined to look at porn could do so, by connecting to an open/unfiltered Wi-Fi point.
According to the Telegraph, RIM has opened up its data service to the networks so that adult content filters can be put in place; so far only T-Mobile has extended its 18+ filter to BlackBerry phones it sells.
In which case, it would seem that RIM has done everything it can; the ball looks to be very much in the networks court. BlackBerry makers RIM is being summoned to a meeting with Ofcom and all of the networks to discuss the matter. We’ve asked RIM for a statement on this and are waiting to hear back.
Update: RIM has got back to us with the following:
“RIM is committed to child protection and an active member of the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF). Access to IWF URLs are blocked on BlackBerry in the UK and this is being put in place in the international markets in which BlackBerry is available. In addition, as a provider to mobile operators, RIM fully supports its operator partners around the world in meeting obligations and commitments in this important area. Content filtering support is available to operators from RIM that enables the operator to perform the content filtering function for BlackBerry smartphones. It is offered to our operator partners without charge.
Operator partners around the world have implemented content filtering, including operator partners in the UK. Any reference to content filtering having been turned off is inaccurate. RIM continues to work with its operator partners to enhance content filtering for BlackBerry smartphone users.”
This is backed up by a statement from T-Mobile which says that content filtering has been in place on BlackBerry phones for the last five years:
“We have an agreement in place with RIM to provide a content-filtering solution to protect our BlackBerry customers. RIM manages this on our behalf within its infrastructure. The agreement was initiated in 2006 when T-Mobile first started selling the BlackBerry in the UK.”
Orange got back to us with the following, saying: “Orange recognises the importance of child safety, and the ability to filter adult content and the content listed by the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF). We provide filtering solutions (Safeguard for Orange) on the majority of mobile devices… Our ongoing priority is to work alongside RIM and industry bodies in order to find a viable solution to this problem.”