Every country will set its own definition of "lawful" and "criminal," so "lawful" and "criminal" are meaningless, arbitrary standards. That's the danger of BlackBerry's thinking -- it may feel good or seem expedient, but it causes a deeper harm each time that erodes our liberties and the type of society that we claim to want.
BlackBerry says customers' BES servers have no backdoors and have never been compromised for government requests. Chen suggests cooperation with governments is in other areas of BlackBerry's technology chain -- perhaps its network operations centers, for example. (The key that BlackBerry has apparently shared is the default that individuals use unless their organization has its own BES server; each organization's BES server has its own key, unknown to BlackBerry similar to Apple not knowing users' encryption keys on iOS devices.)
Although I have no doubt about Chen's sincerity and BlackBerry's integrity, I believe the company's rationale for cooperation with data-access requests is dangerous. If you use a BlackBerry and read Chen's views on how it cooperates on "lawful" requests, do you really believe your data is safe? I wouldn't -- because BlackBerry is not adverse to opening its doors.
I hope everyone who still uses a BlackBerry thinks about that the next time they pick up their phone -- especially if they think that using a BlackBerry makes them more secure than if they used another device. At this point, they will never really know.
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.