RIM had based its BlackBerry on strong security features, which acted as its selling point in the US, Canada, the UK, and other countries. BlackBerry users could use their devices securely without compromising their privacy, personal information, and communications to governments.
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However, Middle East countries raised security due to constant terrorism activities, global security, and moral concerns about BlackBerry devices. Governments could not gain access to customers’ communications because RIM used strong encrypted security features, which many governments could not crack so easily. This frustrated many governments, which wanted to monitor communications through BlackBerry devices. BlackBerry did not have local servers in the Middle East. Hence, the phone automatically transferred users’ information and communications to its servers in Canada, and local governments could not gain access to such data.
Middle East governments also raised moral concerns regarding BlackBerry content accessible to its users. Middle East countries highly regulate what their citizens can access through the Internet
Measures that RIM can take to address security concerns while taking care of its business interests
In order to continue its operation in the region, RIM had to meet the moral and security concerns of the Middle East governments. BlackBerry had to set up local servers in the region and allow governments to gain full access to communications and the personal information of its customers. Hence, RIM had to compromise the privacy of its customers and supply customers’ data to governments. The company had to censor some illegal content in the Middle East region. These measures would ensure that RIM avoids both political and economic risks, but maintain business growth and economic advantages. RIM must recognize that Middle East regulations do not promote personal privacy and the free flow of information. Thus, it is important to localized operations.
Strategic lessons arising from the BlackBerry episode for MNCs operating in the technology arena
Technology MNC companies must set their operational policies to meet those of the host countries in which they operate. MNC firms must compromise the privacy and flow of information of their customers in order to conduct their businesses. Usually, governments can only allow foreign firms to operate within their laws. Countries have different levels of economic freedoms, which can be either stringent or flexible based on the economic reforms of a given country. A combination of political, economic, and social risks can create operational challenges for any MNC.