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India India Warns It Will Block BlackBerry Traffic That It Can’t Monitor

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1947-2014 (Archived)
SPNer
Jun 17, 2004
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By VIKAS BAJAJ
Published: August 12, 2010


MUMBAI, India — The Indian government said Thursday that it would block encrypted BlackBerry corporate e-mail and messenger services if wireless companies did not enable law enforcement authorities to monitor those messages by the end of the month.

The ultimatum suggested that Indian officials had reached an impasse after weeks of negotiations with Research In Motion, the Canadian company that makes and provides services for the popular hand-held devices. India would become the second country in recent weeks to restrict BlackBerry services. The United Arab Emirates announced last week that it would begin blocking services in October.

“If a technical solution is not provided by 31st August, 2010, the government will review the position and take steps to block these two services from the network,” the Home Ministry, the Indian equivalent of the United States Department of Justice, said in a statement.

Losing access to the wireless market in India would be far more significant for R.I.M. than losing the ability to provide service in the United Arab Emirates. India is one of the world’s fastest-growing wireless markets, and it already has an estimated one million BlackBerry users. Some use R.I.M.’s consumer e-mail service, which the government said it had no problem with because it can already monitor those messages.

Officials in India have maintained that the government has the right to monitor all voice and data communications in an unencrypted form under technology laws and the licenses through which wireless phone companies operate.

But R.I.M. has said that it cannot provide unencrypted messages because its vaunted security system gives control over encryption to corporations and their employees, not to R.I.M. The company has also said it has not made any special concessions to any country.

A spokesman for the company in India did not return a call requesting comment.

India and R.I.M. have fought over encrypted messages before. In early 2008, the government threatened to shut BlackBerry services down unless it was given access to messages, but it backed down.

The terrorist attack on Mumbai in November 2008 appears to have made officials here more adamant about gaining access to encrypted communications. Some of the terrorists used Internet-based phone systems to speak to their handlers in Pakistan.

Concerns about the use of telecommunications technologies by terrorists or others have prompted India to restrict other services. For instance, the government periodically suspends text messaging on cellphones in Kashmir, the northern state that has a separatist movement and over which India has fought wars with Pakistan.

India’s move comes days after Saudi Arabia said it would not ban BlackBerry services after R.I.M. and wireless phone companies provided unspecified commitments about helping the country monitor encrypted messages.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/13/technology/13rim.html?_r=1&partner=rss&emc=rss
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