The Union Home Ministry seems to have decided to rein in Canada-based Research In Motion (RIM), makers of BlackBerry smartphone and enterprise services, through mobile operators that provide its services.
RIM's Indian partners (operators) may be asked to block all BlackBerry services that cannot be accessed by Indian security agencies if the Canadian-firm fails provide a solution to the issue soon.
After consulting the Department of Telecommunications, the Ministry has called a meeting on Thursday of mobile operators offering BlackBerry services. They are likely to be told to fulfil all licensing conditions, particularly those related to security.
As a licensee, a mobile operator is liable to put in a mechanism allowing security agencies to intercept any conversation or message of any subscriber whenever required.
Almost all leading operators, including Airtel, Vodafone, Reliance Communications, Tata Teleservices, the BSNL and MTNL, currently offer BlackBerry services.
“With over 10-lakh hi-end BlackBerry customers in India that are growing fast, it will be difficult for RIM to lose a good market like India. Moreover, we just want BlackBerry to allow access to information as is being done in case of other nations. The recent example of it is Saudi Arabia, where RIM has reached a deal with the Saudi government on the similar issue. RIM will have to give access to its server to our security agencies also,” said a senior Home Ministry official.
Bone of contention
While RIM has told the government and operators that some of its services such as email and voicemail can be intercepted by security agencies, the bone of contention is the ‘messenger' service for which RIM itself, it claims, does not have key to break the encryption code. Sources said RIM has agreed to give limited access to email and data services, but it is non-committal about messenger service that allows users to chat.