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8/12/2010
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RIM Sets Conditions For Indian Government BlackBerry Access

In response to the Indian government's demand for decryption capabilities to monitor BlackBerry messaging services, RIM has outlined four principles that limit "lawful" access.

Research In Motion, responding to India's demand to monitor RIM's BlackBerry messaging services, has outlined its conditions for granting government access.

RIM posted the statement to customers on its site Thursday, after India threatened to block the use of RIM's popular messaging systems Aug. 31. To prevent the blockage, RIM has been told to provide the Indian government with decryption capabilities for the company's wireless platform, which provides services to users of RIM's BlackBerry smartphone.

India claims the encryption used makes it impossible for intelligence agencies to monitor messages on the Blackberry networks, thereby posing a national security threat to the country. India is one of the countries most targeted by terrorists. In 2008, for example, suspected Pakistani militants attacked Mumbai and killed 160 people.

RIM's customers are mostly businesspeople, whose companies use encryption to prevent sensitive information from being intercepted. Governments, however, have argued that national security trumps the right to privacy.

Without offering details, RIM said it was cooperating with India and other governments "in the spirit of supporting legal and national security requirements, while also preserving the lawful needs of citizens and corporations."

However, the company said it has insisted that any capabilities it provides for "lawful" access purposes be limited by four main principles:

-- The capabilities are limited to the strict context of lawful access and national security requirements as governed by the country's judicial oversight and rules of law.

-- The same access must be provided by RIM's competitors and other similar communications technology companies.

-- There can be no changes to the security architecture for the BlackBerry Enterprise Server, which is the middleware part of RIM's wireless platform. The same architecture is used by RIM around the world and the company claimed it doesn't have the ability to provide its customers encryption keys.

-- And RIM must be able to maintain a consistent global standard for lawful access requirements that do not include special deals for specific countries.

India is not the first country to demand the ability to monitor communications over RIM's network. RIM recently reached an agreement with Saudi Arabia to prevent a ban, but has yet to strike a deal with the United Arab Emirate.

In India the stakes are high for RIM. The country has a booming mobile phone business, with 600 million users, according to the country's Telecom Regulatory Authority. One million of those users carry BlackBerries.

FURTHER READING:

-- RIM, India In BlackBerry Security Standoff

-- Saudis Blink On BlackBerry Ban

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