Is Research in Motion turning into Big Brother?

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In an astonishing admission, the Chief Information Officer of the Canadian company Research in Motion Ltd. (RIMM) told the tech news web site ZDNet.com.au that the Blackberry maker records all employee conversations.

The reason for this big brother move is to "maintain control over intellectual property," according to the web site. Robin Bienfait denies RIM is Canada's Big Brother.
"They're doing business inside of RIM," she told the web site. "Everything they can say or do can be patented. . . . We're not violating anybody's privacy. They're aware that their information is transparent and in visibility."

Whether or not RIM is violating anyone's privacy is not clear. Employers do have the right in the U.S. -- and presumably Canada, too -- to monitor employees' email accounts. Where it gets tricky is with phone communications.

My non-lawyer understanding is that it is illegal to record a phone conversation without the consent of both parties. Otherwise, it's wire-tapping. I was not able to reach experts in Canada but I suspect the rules there could not be that different. An RIM spokeswoman did not return a phone call.

Bienfait told ZDNet that people who want to have personal conversations can bring in their own devices -- presumably a Blackberry. The company should explain what happens if their mobile phone is not working and someone has to speak with a doctor or a child's teacher over a company landline. Why should that be archived?

The policy is short-sighted. What idiot would use the company landline phone to swipe intellectual property? Also, presumably RIM employees will have to review the tapes. How often does that happen? Managing this whole endeavor has got to be a pain in the butt.

I know billions are at stake in the smartphone market but there has got to be a less-intrusive way for RIM to protect its intellectual property.
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