India sets deadline for BlackBerry compliance

Why does the BlackBerry make so many countries so nervous?

Indian government sets 31 August deadline for RIM to give it access to data transmitted by BlackBerry users

Research in Motion has been given less than three weeks to satisfy India’s concerns over its BlackBerry smartphones, or face seeing its email and instant messaging services shut down.

The Indian government announced this afternoon that it has set RIM a deadline of 31 August to give it access to the data transmitted by BlackBerry users. In a statement, the goverment said that telecoms operators would be ordered to close down these services unless RIM complied.

This decision follows a meeting of Indian officials to discuss the future of BlackBerry smartphones in the country. Government officials spent much of Thursday locked in meetings with at least one mobile operator – state-run telecoms company BSNL – to decide whether to restrict services including email and messaging on the device.

Security fears over BlackBerry services in the country are reported to spring from the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack in which 116 people died. Officials suspect that the culprits used encrypted services on the device.

RIM’s devices, which have proved popular among corporate customers around the world, offer data protection services different from those on most other mobile devices, encrypting data and processing it in a variety of operational centres outside local jurisdictions.

The Canadian manufacturer, also in similar talks with authorities in Saudi Arabia, is facing increasing pressure to allow security agencies access to some of the data passed through its devices.

India is said to be seeking access to both email and BlackBerry Messenger functions, while Saudi Arabia is thought to be seeking access only to the latter.

An Indian official told Reuters: “If they cannot provide a solution, we’ll ask operators to stop that specific service. The service can be resumed when they give us the solution.”

RIM declined to comment.

There are between 700,000 and 1 million BlackBerry owners in India, around 500,000 of which are privately-owned and do not incorporate the same security measures as enterprise customers’ devices. India is the fastest-growing wireless market in the world, and is one of the Ontario-based company’s fastest-growing markets.

A deal struck between authorities and RIM will likely be seen as a concession, and could be precedent-setting for its operations in other countries.

Although RIM declined to comment, a government regulator in Saudi Arabia said earlier this week that the company had successfully completed “part of the regulatory requirements” required to be granted a temporary reprieve from a ban on some services.

An official for the country’s Communications and Information Technology Commission said RIM and other local telecommunications firms were testing transmitting data through domestic servers.

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