The government of India started playing hardball yesterday with Research In Motion, threatening to shut down BlackBerry services in the country if RIM failed to meet security requirements for lawful interception. RIM’s already working with Saudi Arabia security officials who had similar demands of BlackBerry Messenger, browser, and e-mail data sent over BlackBerry, but just in case anyone was worried what exactly that co-operation entails, RIM has issued a statement clarifying under what circumstances they would allow federal authorities to access communications made over BlackBerry.
- The carriers’ capabilities be limited to the strict context of lawful access and national security requirements as governed by the country’s judicial oversight and rules of law.
- The carriers’ capabilities must be technology and vendor neutral, allowing no greater access to BlackBerry consumer services than the carriers and regulators already impose on RIM’s competitors and other similar communications technology companies.
- No changes to the security architecture for BlackBerry Enterprise Server customer since, contrary to any rumors, the security architecture is the same around the world and RIM truly has no ability to provide its customers’ encryption keys. Also driving RIM’s position is the fact that strong encryption is a fundamental commercial requirement for any country to attract and maintain international business anyway and similarly strong encryption is currently used pervasively in traditional VPNs on both wired and wireless networks in order to protect corporate and government communications.
- RIM maintains a consistent global standard for lawful access requirements that does not include special deals for specific countries.
The technology neutrality thing is big, here – it would be totally unfair if other smartphone manufacturers had a particular market advantage because BlackBerry got tied up in security issues that are equally applicable to others (and even the whole internet). RIM is particularly hardlined about BES, which the Indian Department of Telecoms might not too be happy about, but it sounds like the issue is well and truly outside of RIM’s hands. These four points should send a clear message to other countries in doubt about allowing BlackBerry services to continue without any means of interception, like the United Arab Emirates, Lebanon, Indonisia, Tunisia and Algeria.
As for how the whole thing will pan out in India over the long run, RIM says it feels optimistic about reaching a resolution.