This week, Canadian company Research in Motion (RIM) apparently bought itself two months to come up with a permanent solution that will satisfy the demand by the government of India that the company make its Blackberry corporate email and instant-messaging services open to surveillance by India's Security services. These two Blackberry services use proprietary technology and are highly encrypted, making it difficult for security services to monitor.
In early August, India's government told telecommunications companies operating there that these two Blackberry services would be banned unless they could be monitored. There are some 1.1 million Blackberry users in India.
Blackberry said in this Wall Street Journalarticle that RIM had "agreed to provide 'some technical solutions' for local security agencies to monitor the company's encrypted email service," although exact what these solutions are is not known.
The WSJ article also says that India government officials will try out the solutions provided by RIM and decided within 60 days whether they are adequate. If they are not, then the ban will likely be imposed.
Quoting India's Home Minister P Chidambaram from an article in the Hindustan Times:
"Our stand is firm. We look forward to get access to data... All security concerns need to be addressed."
The government also said that it expects RIM to place a server in India, as it did in Saudi Arabia when it was faced with a ban on its instant messaging service earlier last month.
This same demand is also being placed in front of Google and Skype. In this AFPstory, a spokesperson for the Home Minister said that:
"If a company is providing telecom services in India then all communications must be available to Indian security services... If Google or Skype have a component that is not accessible, that will not be possible... The message is the same for everybody."
In addition, the AFP story says that any company's communication service that does not comply will be banned. Internal corporate networks are coming under scrutiny as well.
RIM is still faced with a ban in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on its Blackberry email, Messenger and Web-browsing services beginning the 11th of October unless the government can gain access to them. Reports are that RIM and the UAE are still negotiating a deal. although this may be harder to reach than in India or Saudi Arabia.
Robert N. Charette is a Contributing Editor to IEEE Spectrum and an acknowledged international authority on information technology and systems risk management. A self-described “risk ecologist,” he is interested in the intersections of business, political, technological, and societal risks. Charette is an award-winning author of multiple books and numerous articles on the subjects of risk management, project and program management, innovation, and entrepreneurship. A Life Senior Member of the IEEE, Charette was a recipient of the IEEE Computer Society’s Golden Core Award in 2008.