By Mark Solomons in Paris
June 19 2007
Members of the new French cabinet have been told to stop using their
BlackBerries because of fears that the US could intercept state secrets.
The SGDN, which is responsible for national security, has banned the use
of the personal data assistants by anyone in the presidents or prime
ministers offices on the basis of a very real risk of interception by
The ban has been prompted by SGDN concerns that the BlackBerry system is
based on servers located in the US and the UK, and that highly sensitive
strategic information being passed between French ministers could fall
into foreign hands.
A confidential study carried out two years ago by Alain Juillet, the
civil servant in charge of economic intelligence, found that the
BlackBerry posed a data security problem.
Mr Juillet noted that US bankers would prove their bona fides in
meetings by first placing their BlackBerries on the table and removing
Although the foreign ministry is thought to have long taken heed of an
earlier ban on the use of BlackBerries, members of other government
departments are said to have been still secretly using the devices.
President Nicolas Sarkozy is often seen with a mobile phone clamped to
his ear and was engrossed in calls for much of his election day victory
parade in Paris.
But Mr Sarkozy and his cabinet colleagues face limits on their embrace
of the digital age. Ministers have complained that the SGDN went ahead
with the ban but has still to provide advice on alternative options.
They dont seem to operate in the same time frame as us, complained one.
The BlackBerry has become the favoured communications accessory of
bankers, journalists and others, but the government is following an
example set by the French private sector. Total, the oil company, has
never allowed its staff to use the BlackBerry, also for security reasons
according to the company. There are plenty of other perfectly good PDAs,
Le Monde, which first reported the ban on Tuesday, said officials feared
messages could be intercepted by US agencies such as the National
Security Agency because they ran through servers in the US and Britain.
It quoted Alain Juillet, an official in charge of economic intelligence
issues as saying that the Blackberry poses a problem of data security.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007
Attend Black Hat USA, July 28-August 2 in Las Vegas,
the world's premier technical event for ICT security
experts. Featuring 30 hands-on training courses and
90 Briefings presentations with lots of new content
and new tools. Network with 4,000 delegates from
70 nations. Visit product displays by 30 top
sponsors in a relaxed setting. Rates increase on
June 1 so register today. http://www.blackhat.com