France bans Blackberrys over fear of US intelligence snooping

by Claire Soares, Belfast Telegraph

Seven million people worldwide may be addicted to them but the French government has said "non" to Le BlackBerry, fearing US intelligence agents could be snooping on state secrets.

"The risks of interception are real. It is economic war," Alain Juillet, who is in charge of economic intelligence for the government, told Le Monde newspaper.

The concern is that information sent from a BlackBerry gets routed via servers in the United States and Britain, and that this poses "a problem with the protection of information".

Research In Motion, the company that makes the handheld devices, poured cold water on the French fears, saying there was no way that the US National Security Agency could see the content of messages that were transmitted .

But Paris is clearly not convinced. France's General Secretariat for National Defence first declared the ban on BlackBerrys 18 months ago but recently had to send out another reminder.

Civil servants say rebellious employees are still engaging in surreptitious BlackBerrying. And government officials are still moaning about the edict, because they object to being ordered to abandon technological advances.

"We feel like we're losing a ridiculous amount of time. We're having to learn how to do things in the old-school way," one minister's aide complained.

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