BlackBerry Won't Let India Monitor Messages

India has raised fears BlackBerry services could be used by militants to communicate.

Canada-based Research in Motion (RIM), the manufacturer of BlackBerry, insisted on August 4 that it would not allow the Indian government to monitor encrypted emails but said it hoped for a rapid solution to recent concerns over national security.

BlackBerry's woes in India, one of its biggest markets, come as Saudi Arabia announced a suspension of BlackBerry operations starting August 6 because security agencies cannot monitor messages. The United Arab Emirates has also said it would halt BlackBerry email, messenger and other services from October on the same grounds.

RIM denied local media reports it would allow Indian intelligence agencies to read BlackBerry messages to satisfy government security concerns of the government. "We look forward to a solution (with the Indian government), nobody likes to be in such a situation, a solution should be feasible," RIM spokesman Satchit Gayakwad said.

"But there can be no compromise on security for our customers' communications."

India, battling insurgencies from Muslim-majority Kashmir to the far-flung northeast and mounting Maoist unrest, is highly sensitive about potential risks of new technology. It has raised fears BlackBerry services could be used by militants to communicate.

A telecom ministry spokesman in India said efforts to resolve the security concerns involving BlackBerry, which has around one million customers in India, were "ongoing." The RIM spokesman said BlackBerry had held discussions with India's Department of Telecommunications on the dispute but gave no details.

The Economic Times on August 4 quoted an unnamed security agency official as saying India, the world's fastest growing cellular market, would close BlackBerry services that cannot be monitored.

India has demanded encryption details to track BlackBerry services but the Canadian company says even it cannot read the encrypted information. "We feel there can be a highly secure solution which satisfies the needs of government without compromising BlackBerry's security standards," Gayakwad said.

"If it is corporate data they need, there might be other ways they could do it (get access), and we need not decrypt ourselves," he said.

RIM has said while it could not give governments access to business customers' emails, it could suggest they go to companies directly.

Gayakwad added BlackBerry had a "bright future in India" and was planning the release its new touchscreen BlackBerry Torch in the country.

BlackBerry is not the only company to feel heat from the Indian government. The government has been restricting imports from Chinese telecom manufacturers because of intelligence agency fears "spyware" could be embedded in the equipment. It has unveiled tough new rules for telecom operators and equipment sellers to tackle security issues, saying operators will have to take over equipment maintenance locally and will would have to allow inspections.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2010

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