Indian Government threatens Blackberry shutdown

The Indian Government has threatened to shut down Research In Motion’s Indian BlackBerry operation at the end of August if RIM does not provide a solution allowing the state “lawful interception” of the firm’s Blackberry email and instant messaging services in India.

Conciliatory moves by RIM last week “failed to enthuse” Indian security services, the Government said in a statement released on August 12th.

The ultimatum comes on the heels of similar problems for Canadian firm RIM in both Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Security organisations in the two Middle Eastern states voiced concerns that BlackBerry services could be used for criminal or terrorist activities because RIM’s encryption prevents state access of transmitted data.

“In a letter to to the Department of Telecom Secretary P J Thomas, Union Home Secretary G K Pillai asked him to convey to the operators and Canada-based RIM that a technical solution to make available lawful interception of BlackBerry Enterprise Services (BES) and BlackBerry Messenger Services (BBM) must be found out by 31st August or its services will be blocked,” the Indian Government’s statement read.

In response, RIM said it was not prepared to offer “special deals for specific countries,” and stressed that it maintains a “consistent global standard” for lawful government access to its services.

“RIM assures its customers that it genuinely tries to be as cooperative as possible with governments in the spirit of supporting legal and national security requirements, while also preserving the lawful needs of citizens and corporations,” the firm said in a statement of its own.

But the firm’s resistance might prove temporary. After the Saudi Government briefly blocked BlackBerry services last week, RIM installed three servers that are intended to allow state security organisations to access data before it goes to RIM servers in Canada.

RIM hinted that it felt its service was being unfairly targeted, saying that one of the principles of any lawful state access that it might allow is that: “The carriers’ capabilities [in providing access to security services] must be technology and vendor neutral, allowing no greatera ccess to BlackBerry consumer services than the carriers and regulators already impose on RIM’s competitors and other similar communications technology companies.”

There are around one million BlackBerry users in India.

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