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India bags BlackBerry interception rights

Kuwait can block porn - but UAE gets nothing

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RIM has added India to the list of countries with which it's prepared to share data, and will help Kuwait block porn sites, but still hasn't opened its services up to the UAE.

Indian security forces will be able to intercept emails sent and received by BlackBerry users, within 15 days, as Reuters reports the country has been added to RIM's list of acceptable governments. The Kuwait government isn't quite there yet, but RIM has agreed to help prevent local users indulging in a little one-handed surfing, with interception rights on the table.

BlackBerry users enjoy unparalleled security in their email services, with email stored on RIM's servers and encrypted all the way to the handset. If you want to intercept mail you need access to the handset, or the servers, which is difficult when the former is in the hands of the user and the latter is in a different country.

Blocking porn access is slightly different, as web sessions aren't normally routed through RIM's servers. Reuters reports that RIM has given "initial approval" to block 3,000 sites, which could be done using an on-device black list.

The Kuwait communications ministry says is working with local network operators, as well as RIM, to expand its capabilities in that area. Networks are best placed to block access to content, though on-handset solutions can also work.

The UAE-owned operator, Etisalat, did try to get snooping software onto BlackBerry handsets with a faked upgrade that failed in spectacular fashion. That really annoyed RIM, so now the UAE government faces crawling to RIM to ask for access to the servers, or just banning the devices from the country.

So far it's opted for the latter, while India and Kuwait are following the negotiated route which seems more productive. RIM already allows more than 100 countries access to its servers, but the company was very annoyed at the Etisalat debacle so won't be rushing to comply if the UAE makes such a request.

While it would be lovely to think our communications were secure from authoritarian observance, most of us accept that there are times when the security services need to intercept electronic communications. It seems arrogant, therefore, to suggest that our government should be given that right while other governments should be denied it - true as it may be. ®

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