Indian Government Can Now Intercept BlackBerry Messenger

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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Leaked document confirms rollout but BES emails are safe

BlackBerry has provided the Indian government with a method o intercepting messages sent on BlackBerry Messenger (BBM), according to a leaked document from the country’s Department of Telecommunications (DOT) obtained by the Times of India.

The Indian government had threatened to shut down BlackBerry services if the company did not provide such a system, but authorities now appear to be satisfied, bringing an end to the long running dispute.

Nine of India’s ten major operators are currently in the process of deploying the system, which also provides access to BlackBerry Internet Services (BIS).

BlackBerry Messenger

India privacy security © India security privacy © Norebbo Shutterstock Shutterstock“Barring a few minor points for improvement of viewers, the lawful interception system for BlackBerry Services is ready for use,” said the document.

BlackBerry confirmed to the newspaper that it has indeed provided such a system, but was keen to stress that it did not provide access to business emails over BlackBerry Enterprise Service (BES).

The Canadian manufacturer has also offered to train up to five government officials at its base in Ontario to handle the technical architecture, operation and maintenance of the monitoring facility.

BlackBerry established a surveillance lab in India in October 2011 and first tested the system on Vodafone’s network in Mumbai later that year. However the intercepted information was not in a readable format and the government issued more demands on tracking BBM messages and emails, repeating its shutdown threat.

BBM was once one of the biggest selling points of the BlackBerry platform, but it is increasingly being challenged by rival platforms such as the cross-platform messaging service WhatsApp.

Its importance has also been reduced by the declining popularity of BlackBerry smartphones, but BBM still claims more than 60 million monthly active users with more than 50 million averaging an hour and a half hours of use every day.

The service is due to go cross-platform later this summer, when iOS and Android applications are launched.

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