Indian Officials Set Deadline for RIM and Corporate Email Access

by Jordan Richardson on March 17, 2011

The plan offered to Indian government officials for Research In Motion’s BlackBerry Messenger services isn’t good enough.

Indian security agents are not satisfied with the plan offered by the Waterloo company to have access to data on Messenger. RIM gave the government access to its consumer services, including Messenger, but refused to allow monitoring of enterprise email. This hasn’t been sitting well with Indian government officials and security agents.

RIM now has a deadline of March 31 to hand over access to the encryption keys pertaining to corporate email. For its part, RIM has steadily refused to grant this access and that could mean bad news for the relationship between the company and the country.

RIM says that there is simply no technological solution to grant the kind of access the government wants, but the Indian officials haven’t been budging at all. They believe that RIM has made similar “concession stands” with the governments of Saudi Arabia and China, but details of those arrangements have not been made public.

In any event, it seems that RIM is between a rock and a hard place if it wants to operate in India. The stalemate has been well-documented since it began and the deadline won’t help matters.

The type of encryption used by RIM in its email service lacks a “back door” to decrypting message traffic, but a potential solution making the rounds right now is that the Indian government could make users pass over their own encryption keys directly to officials.

Of course, the “solutions” aren’t all that attractive to those who value privacy and freedom of speech. The potential to manipulate or outright block access to certain material in communications is high given the amount of government access that would take place and the opportunities for corruption are nearly limitless, but some companies believe that’s the cost of doing business. Nokia, for instance, is already working with the Indian government on ways to spy on consumer emails.

As to what will happen by India’s proposed deadline, that’s anybody’s guess. The battle has been raging for about three years and it doesn’t look like either side is willing to back down.

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Written by: Jordan Richardson. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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