BlackBerry deadline expires with no action

BlackBerry deadline expires with no action

New Delhi: The expiry of the 31 January deadline by which the government was to gain lawful access to the BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) passed without any action being taken by the home ministry and department of telecommunications (DoT).

Canada-based Research In Motion Ltd (RIM), maker of the BlackBerry smartphone, had been given time till Monday to provide access to BES, which facilitates the exchange of secure, encrypted corporate email, and set up a server in India. According to senior officials in both the home ministry and DoT, the matter was still under consideration. A final decision may take a fortnight or even a month.

“We are still waiting for the DoT decision," said a senior home ministry official on condition of anonymity. A senior DoT official, who too did not want to be named, said: “DoT has not yet completed the testing of a solution that was proposed by RIM."

RIM has been saying that it can’t access BES data and that the government would have to ask enterprises for this.

“We cannot provide a BES solution because under the model, neither are we in possession of keys nor is the operator," Robert E. Crow, RIM vice-president (industry, government and university relations), said last week in an interview to Mint. He also said RIM was not facing any deadline from the home ministry to provide access to BES-based communications and it had no plans to set up a server in India.

But the home ministry maintains that 31 January was the deadline for BES and that it is mandatory for RIM and other similar service providers, including Nokia, Google and Skype, to establish servers in India.

Home minister P. Chidambaram on Monday indicated that a decision was imminent.

“I think a decision will be taken today by the ministry of home affairs and the telecom ministry. I am not yet been briefed on the development in the last few days," he said. “They have given us a solution to the Messenger service, we will insist that they give us the solution for the Enterprise server too."

According to the home ministry, any decision to ban BES would depend on three aspects —whether RIM has the encryption keys, the economic and administrative viability of the offer made by the company and how the solution would affect its profitability in India.

India is insisting on getting access to all encrypted email services available in the country, including BlackBerry, Google and Skype as it fears that terrorists may misuse the technology.

On Monday, Pakistan called on mobile phone operators to stop BlackBerry services to foreign missions amid security concerns, industry sources said, Reuters reported.

Reuters contributed to this story.