India Turns Up The Heat On RIM

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The BlackBerry ban row has now shifted focus to India, after it became the latest country to threaten to ban BlackBerry services

India has become the latest country to threaten to ban some services provided by Research in Motion, maker of the popular BlackBerry phones over security concerns.

In early August it emerged that United Arab Emirates was planning to block the sending of emails, accessing the Internet, and delivering instant messages to RIM’s Blackberry handsets.

Saudi Arabia had also announced that from 6 August, it would prevent the use of the Blackberry-to-Blackberry instant messaging service. RIM denied that it was willing to compromise over the issue, but it later emerged that it was holding ‘last ditch’ talks with Saudi Arabia and even to the last minute was ‘resisting Saudi demands’ before the 6 August deadline  However in the end, in order to avoid a ban it agreed to let the Saudi government monitor email data.

Security Concerns

The various Governments wanted to ban certain functions on the BlackBerry handset such as instant Messaging, email, SMS etc, because of the level of encryption that RIM that prevents security services from monitoring the devices. The government’s contend this a security issue, whereas privacy campaigners believe it is such a cover for authorities to be able to monitor daya to day communications and enforce local laws.

The issue has spread beyond the Middle East, with concern have been previously expressed by India, Indonesia, Turkey, and the Lebanon.

India Ban

Now it has emerged that Indian Government officials have met with RIM to address fears that the handsets could be used by insurgents for terror attacks like the 2008 Mumbai bombings. According to Reuters, India has said that they have given RIM until 31 August to address the security issues before they impose the country-wide ban.

Specifically, India is looking to ban the smartphone maker’s email and instant messaging services.

Reuters carried an Indian government statement that mobile phone operators would by law have to shut these services if Research In Motion failed to meet their demands.

It is thought that RIM had already offered to help India track emails, but government officials had decided that did not go far enough.

RIM’s agreement with Saudi Arabia has seen it install a server in that country so that authorities can monitor communication, and it is likely that India is pushing for the same treatment, as currently as BlackBerry data goes through RIM’s servers in Canada.

India is a vital market for smartphone growth, and the country believed to have approximately one million BlackBerry users, both among the youth and business community, who value the device’s ability to allow for secure communication.

RIM said it had no comment to make at this time, in response to an eWEEK Europe UK inquiry.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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