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BBM: the new spy game

Posted by: Mobile Kugel

Mobile Kugel

South Africa’s Deputy Communications Minister Obed Bapela says government is considering decrypting BlackBerry messages "if crimes are committed using the BlackBerry service".

What that means exactly I’m not sure, sounds like a meshugass.

Alas, it is not. It seems to be the latest gov-trend since the UK and United Arab Emirates have called for the same formal regulation after the London riots and Arab state uprisings respectively.

This regulation would give police authority to access messages sent via the BlackBerry chat service.

Despite many South African’s being appalled at the potential spy game that could occur, many are forgetting that our country already has a legislation which allows such intrusion of our mobile phone privacy; the Regulation of Interception of Communication Act (Rica).

While it was advertised as “one of government’s key crime prevention initiatives towards making South Africa a safer place to live and work” the bottom line was that we did not have a choice, RICA was compulsory for all SIM card holders and millions registered not understanding the full extent of this regulation.

Whatsupp next?

What needs to be understood is that it is not just about BBM. Other mobile chatting platforms like Whatsapp and Mxit are sure to be included in this RICA spygame.

I can’t help but wonder whether this may be the first of many attempts by government to invade people’s privacy in the name of ‘security’. Soon it could be email and landline phone interception. It will be like living in the apartheid or a communist regime.

According to numerous articles dealing with this topic, Bapela has not yet discussed such plans with BlackBerry’s Research in Motion (RIM) but hopes they will comply given the “high level of crime in South Africa.”

RIM would need to co-operate in order for the success of message decryption. RIM has come to the party in other countries where governments have raised the same concern.

So it will be interesting to see how they react to South Africa given there is no full proof information that crime syndicates are organising their unlawful activities through BBM.

Ta-ta free speech

As the debate goes, free flow of information on social networks and platforms like BBM or Whatsapp can be used for good and evil. But, will South Africa be willing to give up their freedom of speech/expression to a government who does not have a great track record of fighting crime.

I would imagine that citizens would be more willing to participate if this regulation came as a government’s final resort.

Bapela jumped on the bandwagon after the UK argued that the BBM tool was used to encourage rioting for those who would never have previously participated exacerbated by the fact that according to Arthur Goldstuck, 37% of UK youth used BBM.

What is concerning is that since the aftermath of the London riots, it became clear that it was not BBM which coordinated riots but rather social networks, Facebook and Twitter.

So the question remains, is it a matter of time before our Facebook and Twitter profiles are hacked?

How will it work!?

So, we have 11 official languages. 12 if you include TXT language. How on earth could the government decode this:



I have a question


I have a question for you


Gentle warning, like "Hmm? What did you say?"


Meaning "read line" or "message above"


Meaning "sideways heart" (love, friendship)



Meaning "heart or love" (more 3s is a bigger heart)


At the end of the day


My (or your) two cents worth

1TG, 2TG

Meaning number of balls needed for win (online gaming/Bingo)


One-to-one (private chat initiation)


Leet, meaning 'elite'


I love you



They would have to employ a team of teenagers to decipher these messages.






Hugs and kisses



Parent is watching 



Meaning "smile"  



Meaning "wink" 



Asleep at keyboard



Alive and kicking





Can't remember *stuff*


Chuckle, snicker, grin


Can't stop laughing





For more of this freaky code language kids use these days click here




“Mary I’m leaving, I’m going to Australia.”

I was watching Trevor Noah’s “Daywalker” this weekend. He is a comical genius and is particularly good at ridiculing all of our rainbow nation’s races in their unique accents.

“Around election time is when you see the most panic in South Africa. You hear them (white South Africans) whispering, ‘I’m leaving, I’m leaving I’m going to Australia.’

After Madiba’s reign as president, people panicked again. “Now that Mandela has gone they are going to eat us. I’m going to Australia”

Then we had Kgalema Motlanthe.  “I can’t believe it I didn’t even vote! One minute I go to bed and Thabo is our president and next thing I wake up and Kagleme Montlalalalalal is our president. I’m going to Australia, Mary, this time I’m leaving!”

“Then its Jacob’s turn...the original boogie man. And for the first time the Black South Africans were asking “ much is that ticket to Australia?”

After hearing about this BBM saga taking place on government level, all I could think about was Trevor Noah’s rendition of South African’s response to this....

Well I have tweeted him so will get back to you if he responds.

What do you think the joke would be?



Comments (7)Add Comment
written by Jawellnofine, September 07, 2011
I am amused at how the-powers-that-be always use emotive euphemisms to justify and rationalize their actions against the masses!?

The concept behind free-speech went out of the Dodo – by controlling the environment under which the populous lives and breathes, the masses have a sense of choice and control, while back at the ranch; the very same masses are being covertly managed and controlled.

The saying that no government can be seen not to be in control rings true in every sense.

RICA and FICA has only managed to keep the average working Joe’s under tabs. Those that operate above or below those frica rules have moved on to other more stealthy trading avenues.

I do believe that if George Orwell were alive today, he would be having a quiet giggle to himself.

Mobile Kugel
written by Mobile Kugel, September 07, 2011
@Jawellnofine, you are so right about how the powers who be are able to get away with it. In the same breath, don't you find so much of the public is so apathetic!?

If we do feel strongly about something, we tend to strike, throw rubbish around and be unproductive.

We talk about it, write about it and then get over it and move onto the next hot topic. I wonder if people will make more of a fuss about this potential regulation considering so many SAfricans have BlackBerry's?

I love your comment about George Orwell smilies/smiley.gif I'm not sure the man would be giggling though...I would imagine him being elegantly furious.
written by Jawellnofine, September 07, 2011
@Kugel - To my mind you've hit the nail on the head about the public being apathetic. It's a pity but a reality none the less.

It is as if we worry too much about everyday stuff that we fail to notice the important big picture playing itself out all around us.

Elegantly furious - yep yep smilies/grin.gif
written by Jawellnofine, September 07, 2011
@Kugel - I noticed that the Times Live has a poll running that answers your question about "I wonder if people will make more of a fuss about this potential regulation"?

The verdict so far is a virtual dead heat. If a question is laced with well-phrased emotion-grabbing gumph, the outcome is perdictable. The sheeple syndrome... sad, very sad.
Mobile Kugel
written by Mobile Kugel, September 09, 2011
@Jawellnofine, I had a look at the poll this evening to see what the results were but I could not find it smilies/sad.gif...There are some interesting comments on the article though.

Latest news on the matter is that "Communications Minister Radhakrishna Roy Padayachie says the government has no intention to clamp down on the BlackBerry Messenger service." (Timeslive)

So I am guessing there was some kind of public response which may have prompted this new announcement?
written by Jawellnofine, September 11, 2011
@Kugel - the polls on Times Live are only there for a day (or shorter)

Subsequent to that statement by the Minister, the Canadian owners of Blackberry have said that they will release all content as required by the Minister. Go figure.
written by OS GIKEN, September 12, 2011
LOL. When I heard this I said...great, let them try! Remember, our government is strugling to deliver basic services to people, becuase it entrusts certain work to people who cannot do it. This will most probably be given to Gijima, lol, who'll make a complete balls up of this project and before you know it, you'll get government BBM mesages on your BB instead of them getting or prying on your messages lol...even if they wanted to, they can't.

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