Blackberry says it will address India's concern this time.

RIM renews two-year-old assurance even as national security remains in jeopardy


Samir Sachdeva | July 29, 2010

Research in Motion (RIM), the Canada-based manufacture of BlackBerry, has once again assured the government that it will address Indian security concerns – just as it did two years ago.

The home ministry this week threatened to ban BlackBerry services if the firm does not start sharing data. On Thursday, Special Secretary (Internal Security) in the MHA Utthan Kumar Bansal said that the firm had assured Indian authorities it would address security concerns.

BlackBerry's sevrices, provided in India through special handset of the company by most of the big operators, are special because they are highly encrypted and Blackberry's servers are located in Canada, the country of its origin. The services provided by these Indian companies on other handsets can be intercepted by Indian security agencies. They can when they feel the need, access the emails and SMSs sent from these handsets. The same is not possible with Blackberry because of the high leve encryption and the foreign location of its servers.

The Indian government has been pushing Blackberry to give access in the interest of national security. In 2008 too things came to a head and Blackberry's services were on the verge of being discontinued but the company said it would address the government's concerns. Two years later, we are hearing the same language, meaning nothing has been done by Blackberry.

Blackberry's India experience is not unique. Various governments across the globe have been pressing it for access but the company does not seem to have one standard for all countries. Blackberry has acquiesced to US demands for access, has reportedly located its servers in China and has been put on notice by the UAE.

Arguing against the right of privacy of any citizen is always difficult because of the suspicions of blatant misuse, but if one concern can override it, it is the national security concern. BlackBerry which is servicing anywhere between half a million to a million users in India needs to follow the law of land.

The fact that India is the world's no. 2 market in mobile telephony attracts the likes of RIM to the country but they should appreciate that it is also a top target of terrorists.



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