RIM faces an Aug. 31 ban on BlackBerry Enterprise Service and Messenger Service, according to the Indian government, which has voiced concerns about BlackBerry encryption offering terrorists and criminals the ability to communicate undetected.
The Indian government has imposed a deadline of Aug. 31 on Research In
Motion to open its BlackBerry encryption to security officials or
risk being shut down.
"[The Department of Telecommunications] has been asked to convey to
service providers that two BlackBerry services[,] namely Business Enterprise
Services and Messenger Services[,] be made accessible to law enforcement
agencies by August 31," a
spokesperson from India's Ministry of Home Affairs told the Times of India
"If a technical solution is not provided by that date, the government will
review the position and take steps to block these two services from the
RIM's solution will apparently need to pass muster with Indian security
agencies such as the National Technical Research Organization. India's
Department of Communications had previously voiced the belief that terrorists and
other miscreants could send unbreakable messages thanks to BlackBerry's
security system, which utilizes private encryption keys assigned specifically
to individual users.
Other BlackBerry services, such as voice calls and SMS messaging, would not
be affected by the Aug. 31 shutdown.
Indian government may be studying RIM's recent agreement with Saudi Arabia
which wanted the smartphone manufacturer to enact similar changes to its
devices' security profile. The Saudi government had originally threatened to
shut down RIM's BlackBerry Messenger service by Aug. 6 if its concerns remained
unaddressed, leading to several rounds of frantic negotiations.
On Aug. 10, Saudi Arabia's
Communication and Information Technology Commission told The Wall Street
Journal that the BlackBerry Messenger service will be allowed to continue,
following "positive developments in the completion of part of the regulatory
requirements on the part of service providers."
However, the exact terms between RIM and the Saudi government remain
unclear, with the Commission saying only that it "continues to work with
service providers to complete the remainder of the regulatory requirements."
India and Saudi
Arabia could be the tip of the proverbial
iceberg, according to at least one analyst.
"Countries in Asia and the Middle
East that already have relatively tight PC Internet controls will
increasingly turn their regulatory focus to wireless data services as they
become more popular," Neil Mawston, an analyst with Strategy Analytics,
told eWEEK. "RIM can probably expect more governments to come asking for
negotiations in the coming months."
RIM has traditionally pushed back against government interference into its
encryption policy, arguing that its corporate clients need the BlackBerry's
ironclad security. However, governments and law enforcement officials have
complained over the years that
criminals gravitate toward BlackBerry for exactly that reason
The BlackBerry Torch 9800, RIM's
attempt at capturing both the consumer and business smartphone markets,
officially launched on Aug. 12
. In addition to a capacitive touch screen
and sliding QWERTY keyboard, the device includes the company's new BlackBerry 6