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BlackBerry Boosts BBM Privacy With Free Self-Destructing Messages And Recalls

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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BlackBerry abolishes subscription fee for ‘retract’ and ‘timer’ to give users “more control” over their BBM communications

BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) users on iOS, Android and BlackBerry 10 (BB10) can now recall messages and send ‘self-destructible’ communications, such as messages, pictures and location information, without the need for a premium subscription.

‘Retract’ and ‘Timer’ previously cost less than £1 a month in the UK (79p on iOS), but the features are now unlimited to all users. However, BlackBerry warns that subscriptions might not necessarily cancel following the installation of the update and has urged customers to do so manually.

“Building on the renowned immediacy, reliability and security inherent to BBM, the new release provides unmatched level of privacy and control to BBM users without any subscription fees,” said Matthew Talbot, senior vice president of BBM at BlackBerry.

“Keeping control over the messages and content that they share, BBM users can be ensured that what they share is always theirs to control.”

BBM privacy

BBM RetractBBM is one of the pillars of BlackBerry’s ongoing transition away from hardware towards software and services and its removal of the fee follows WhatsApp’s own decision to abolish its annual subscription.

Service and software revenues rose to £107.9 million during the recent quarter, a rise of 106 percent – a ray of hope in results that missed expectations.

The Canadian manufacturer claims the functionality will give users “full ownership” over their communications, however the company has sent out mixed messages about its attitude towards privacy in the past few months.

BlackBerry’s security features made its devices the de facto standard for businesses and governments around the world for many years, but in December 2015, CEO John Chen slammed other technology firms, specifically Apple, for refusing to work with governments on “lawful access requests” and says the right to privacy should not be extended to criminals.

Mixed messages

Chen said privacy is essential to BlackBerry’s business, but governments and technology should cooperate, adding that his firm was in a “unique position” to bring the sides together because of its big business and public sector customers.

BlackBerry COO Marty Beard has reportedly voiced support for a government backdoor in the past, but Chen mocked calls from some leaders, including UK Prime Minister David Cameron, for a ban on encryption. Chen said that even if this was technically possible, it would be ineffective. Some have noted however that BlackBerry has agreed deals with the Indian and Saudi Arabian governments in the past.

However in January this year, BlackBerry moved to reassure customers that is devices were safe following claims from the Dutch police that they had successfully decrypted messages. BlackBerry said if the information recovery did happen, it would not have been due to how the device was designed.

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