India still wants BlackBerry access but ban unlikely

RIM didn't deliver access to secure BlackBerry e-mail by India's deadline. The government apparently won't ban the service as threatened but insists it still wants to monitor data.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
2 min read

India appears unlikely to implement its threatened ban on BlackBerry services, but the government is still demanding access to the data on Research In Motion's secure enterprise network--something RIM keeps insisting it cannot provide.

RIM had been ordered to give the Indian government a permanent solution on access to its BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) by yesterday to avoid a ban on its services. India has been insisting on the access for the past several months as a way to monitor e-mails for national security reasons. But with the deadline past and no solution apparently in place, what does that mean for RIM?

A senior official with India's Ministry of Home Affairs told the country's Economic Times that no decision has yet been made on extending the deadline but that a ban on BlackBerry services was unlikely.

However, that doesn't get RIM off the hook. Early last month, the company did provide an interim solution by giving India access to its consumer services, which includes BlackBerry Messenger and BlackBerry Internet Services e-mail. But that access did not extend to the BlackBerry Enterprise Server used by RIM's corporate customers. This hasn't pleased the Indian government.

"Just like they [BlackBerry makers] have given a solution to [monitor] messenger service, we will insist that they also give us a solution to enterprise service," Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram recently told reporters, according to the Economic Times.

RIM's position almost from the start has been clear and oft repeated. The company has insisted that it does not hold the keys to the encrypted data flowing through its enterprise server network and therefore cannot provide the keys. Those keys instead rest in the hands of its customers. RIM again stressed its position late last week just before the deadline. Speaking to reporters in India, Robert Crow, the company's vice president for industry, government, and university, said "there is no solution, there are no keys to be handed."

RIM has tried to conjure up ways to skirt the issue, such as suggesting that governments directly ask its customers for the encryption keys. But even RIM acknowledged that countries may be wary of taking such an extreme measure for fear of alienating the very companies that generate local business.