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RIM misses India’s encryption ultimatum deadline

by Sarah Griffiths on 3 February 2011, 10:42


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Deadline dilemma

BlackBerry owners in India could now face a ban on using their handsets after Research in Motion (RIM) failed to meet a government deadline and hand over access to its services.

After much wrangling that has gone on for months between RIM and the Indian authorities, RIM has not capitulated to the government's demands it can read encrypted communications sent from BlackBerrys, the BBC reported.

The Indian authorities have been negotiating with the smartphone manufacturer since last summer to come to an arrangement, but now the deadline has passed and RIM has reportedly said it will not stop encrypting its business clients' messages.

The Indian authorities apparently want access to the encrypted messages to prevent future terrorist attacks after it was found that mobile messages and emails were used by terrorists in Pakistan to coordinate the attacks in Mumbai in November 2008, which killed 164 people.

The authorities have since reportedly tightened up communications laws to stop the use of untraceable handsets and access to encrypted message services.

However, it is the Blackberry's secure email that has made it popular with business people and a complete ban of BlackBerrys in India, as threatened by the authorities if their wishes were not met, would hit the firm hard.

RIM has apparently made some concessions in the weeks leading up to the 31 January deadline but said it could not meet India's demands completely as it does not have the technical ability to un-encrypt messages.

RIM's VP Robert Crow, last week reportedly said: "There is no possibility of us providing any kind of a solution. There is no solution, there are no keys to be handed."

While it is not yet known how the Indian authorities will handle the passing of its deadline, the home minister, P Chidambaram reportedly told journalists: "We will insist they [RIM] give us a solution." 

However, the situation has come to a head before and India has previously given RIM more time to come up with a solution to the encryption problem. While a total ban could happen, the Indian media apparently thinks it is unlikely.

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