RIM Stands Firm Against India

Research in Motion today said it won’t allow Indian authorities to access data transmitted through its corporate service, in a long-running battle over access to data passed through over its BlackBerry devices.

The Waterloo, Ontario-based handset maker recently clarified that it has no “master key,” or back door, that would allow any entity, including RIM itself, to access data on its central BlackBerry Enterprise Server. RIM has been attempting to cooperate with the demands of Indian government, which is seeking access to encrypted data because of national security concerns.

India has threatened to ban usage of some BlackBerry services in its borders and has imposed a January 31, 2011 deadline for the mobile phone maker to meets its conditions.

In response, RIM has agreed to allow access to some communications on a case-by-case basis, and perhaps allow access to encrypted data. The company will, however, only allow the government “lawful access” to these communications after following due legal process, rather than providing continuous access to the messages. RIM claims that it will not capitulate to demands of any country, and that its policies are implemented equally worldwide.

Previously the handset maker was reported to have accepted a plan by the Indian government in which RIM would provide a “network data analysis system” to decode the encrypted messenger and email messages from the BlackBerry server, and allow access to sensitive data by India’s interior ministry.

But RIM, previously unavailable for comment on the matter, has since rebutted such claims, citing such an apparatus as impossible to create.

The government of India has targeted mobile phone makers and services in an overall strategy to strengthen national security, citing concerns that terrorist, military and other threatening groups might use the technology to their advantage. The 2008 terrorist attacks on tourist-heavy Mumbai were partially carried out by mobile phones and other devices.

Nokia has reportedly already agreed to allow the Indian government access to their encrypted server. India also plans to exert pressure on Google and Skype to cooperate.

In targeting mobile technology, India joins a list of other countries that have exerted pressure on RIM to access sensitive encrypted data passed over its BlackBerry devices. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have also registered concerns regarding information monitoring.

RIM is still in negotiations with Saudi Arabia; however, UAE has forfeited its ban.

RIM initially made its name as the company behind the groundbreaking BlackBerry product line, which gained its reputation in business and government sectors for the strong security of its data. However, the company’s strength in data encryption has made it an increasing target of governments eager to access data.

With RIM making its latest stand against continuous, central access to its protected enterprise data, the conflict with the Indian government may continue despite attempts to compromise.

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