In a new twist to the BlackBerry controversy, the government on Wednesday said the onus of giving access to security agencies to monitor the information on these smartphones lies with the service providers.
Government sources said, according to licensing conditions, the service providers are liable to put in a mechanism to allow the security agencies to intercept any conversation or message of any subscriber whenever required.
As telecom service providers like Airtel, Vodafone, RCom, the Tatas and government-run BSNL and MTNL offer BlackBerry services, it is the responsibility of these operators to ensure that the security agencies get access to all services they offer.
Sources further said the maker of BlackBerry phones, Research in Motion (RIM), has conveyed to the operators that services like e-mail and voicemail can be intercepted by the security agencies but no assurance has been given to services like BlackBerry Messenger.
RIM had on Tuesday said that not only the company but even operators can decipher the encrypted data on its smartphones.
“We told the service providers in categorical terms that the government will allow them to offer those services which could be intercepted by the security agencies. If any service is not allowed to be intercepted, we will not allow them to run such services,” sources said.
While expressing its inability to share access, RIM had on Tuesday said that the security architecture for its enterprise customers is based on a symmetric key system whereby the customers create their own key and only they possess the copy of the encryption.
“RIM does not possess a master key nor does any backdoor exist in the system that would allow RIM or any third party to gain an unauthorised access to the key or corporate data,” the company had said, adding RIM, therefore, will be unable to accommodate any request for a copy of a customer’s encryption key since at no time does RIM, or any wireless network operator, ever possess a copy of the key.
There are about one million BlackBerry subscribers registered with different operators.