In an in-depth report on Motherboard and its parent site VICE, Jordan Pearson and Justin Ling report that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police had access to Blackberry's master encryption key — giving them access to every BBM that goes over a network the RCMP can gain access to, as long as the Blackberry user wasn't hooked up to a BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES).
Key questions posed by the article — including whether the RCMP still has access to this key, and whether Blackberry itself provided the key — remain unanswered because BlackBerry, prosecutors, and telephone providers fought release of details on the case.
The article states that, based on court records, the RCMP had access to the key at least between 2010 and 2012.
That narrative is a black eye for BlackBerry, a company that has famously fought to keep its key a closely held secret. In fact, in a blog post just last year, Blackberry stated that it would cease operations in Pakistan if that country did not back down on demands for similar access.
It appears that devices configured to use BES, BlackBerry's offering for large companies to have more control over their data security and access, would not be impacted by the release of the key in question.
The fight takes place as Apple has fought the DOJ over the creation of backdoors for its popular iOS device line and Microsoft fights for increased transparency over how and when governments can access data stored in the cloud.