India may decide BlackBerry fate tomorrow
India may decide to temporarily shut down BlackBerry Messenger and email services if Research In Motion does not address security concerns in a meeting to be held between the government and operators on Thursday, government officials said.
India's home ministry will press for some deadline to be fixed for RIM to share encryption details when government officials meet telecom operators on Thursday. "The meeting will be held tomorrow to find a solution on this issue," U K Bansal, India's internal security chief said.
India says the Canadian smartphone maker's BlackBerry services could be misused by militants as security agencies cannot access the messages sent through these services. The country's security establishment took a hardline view on RIM's stance that it does not possess a "master key" to intercept data traffic on BlackBerry, insisting it needs access to encrypted messages in a "readable format."
"There definitely could be talk of some deadline and a proposal to take strong action on BlackBerry services during the meeting," a government official, who declined to be named as he is not authorised to speak to the media, said on Wednesday.
Indian officials said they were also verifying reports that RIM has agreed to hand over coveted "codes" to users' phones to try to avert a ban on its Messenger service in Saudi Arabia. Another senior government official said that operators could be asked to shut down Enterprise Email and Messenger services temporarily as a last alternative, if RIM does not agree to offer access to data. "Service can be resumed when they give us the solution," another government official said.
RIM has said BlackBerry security is based on a system where the customers create their own key and the company neither has a master key nor any "back door" to allow RIM or any third party to gain access to crucial corporate data. "As of now there is nothing more to comment on this issue," the RIM India spokesman said on Wednesday, when asked if a breakthrough was in sight.
Officials say RIM has proposed to help India track emails, without sharing encryption details, which security officials say is not enough. RIM does not give country-specific user numbers but India is estimated to have more than a million BlackBerry subscribers with almost all of the leading operators providing these services.