RIM averts BlackBerry ban with a 60-day test

RIM averts BlackBerry ban with a 60-day test

New Delhi: Avoiding an immediate ban, BlackBerry maker Research In Motion Ltd (RIM) has finally agreed to give Indian security agencies access to its messenger services, but it isn’t off the hook yet as it still has to find a way to allow monitoring of its enterprise servers.

The development comes a day before the 31 August deadline for RIM to allow security agencies full access, in a live readable format, or face a ban.

The home ministry has given RIM another 60 days to open access to its BlackBerry enterprise services (BES). India fears militant groups can use BlackBerry’s highly encrypted services to plan or conduct terror attacks.

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Following the agreement, the Canadian firm has to set up a server in India.

The government has sent notices to Google Inc. and Skype as well to allow access to their services or face a ban, said a senior government official who spoke on condition of anonymity. These firms, too, will be asked to set up servers in India, he added.

Last week, RIM executives met officials of the Directorate of Intelligence Bureau (DIB), National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO) and other ministry officials to discuss the problem.

Home secretary G.K. Pillai on Monday called an internal meeting of home ministry and department of telecommunications (DoT) officials, where it was decided to operationalize certain proposals made by RIM.

“RIM have made certain proposals for lawful access by law enforcement agencies and these would be operationalized immediately. The feasibility of the solutions offered would be assessed thereafter," the home ministry said in a statement after the meeting. “It was also decided that the DoT would study the feasibility of all such services being provided through a server located only in India."

The ministry said it will review the situation in 60 days.

“The meeting of RIM with DIB and NTRO official will continue for (the) next few days to find (a) possible solution for BES. We know that they have provided full access to the US government and we are asking the same," said the government official mentioned earlier in the story.

India is not the only country to have made such demands of RIM, said Charan Wadhwa, an economist with the Centre for Policy Research, adding that each country has the right to enforce laws it thinks are required for national security.

“I think India should stand firm, but give RIM a moderate extension and stick to that deadline. The Indian market is important to them and ultimately I think they will agree (to India’s demands)," he said.

India has at least 500,000 BlackBerry users. The number has increased in the past few quarters as RIM announced new partnerships with telecom service providers, and launched cheaper handsets and services.

Elizabeth Roche contributed to this story.