BlackBerry Messenger helps uncover a Brazilian corruption scandal

BlackBerry Classic keyboard

Some less-than-ethical businesspeople are learning the hard way that even secure messaging systems aren't all that private. Brazilian authorities have used BlackBerry Messenger records (obtained through warrants and BlackBerry's help) to level corruption charges against over 100 people skimming money from the country's state-owned oil company, Petrobras. The chats not only confirmed relationships between culprits, but indicated when people were arranging cash drop-offs and other suspicious activities. There aren't any convictions just yet, but it may be hard for at least some suspects to deny that they're involved.

Brazilian law enforcement's access to the chats raises concerns about BBM's confidentiality, especially in light of BlackBerry's tendencies to both treat messages as sacred and offer access only reluctantly. The company isn't saying much, but it points to an official policy that balances "lawful access assistance" versus privacy. In short, officials likely gave the folks in Waterloo little choice but to hand over the goods -- at least in Brazil, you shouldn't assume that encryption alone will keep your messages a secret.