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BlackBerry to Indian gov: Ban us, you have to ban Skype too

'La la la, we're not listening,' politicoes respond

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RIM reckons it has convinced the Indian government that it can't intercept customer data, and that if it gets banned it's going to take everyone else down with it.

RIM's latest statement on the ongoing dispute with the Indian government is the most detailed yet, but still not very detailed. The company reckons it's working closely with the Indians to resolve the problem of lawful intercept, and argues that the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs agrees that any compliance requirements should be applied across the industry - so the threatened ban should apply to all.

But ultimately, RIM again points out that it still has no ability to intercept customer messages.

It's all very well for Nokia and Google to locate servers in India, or any other country, in order to facilitate lawful intercept - servers located within the country are subject to local laws, but when a company (or an individual) runs its own BlackBerry Enterprise Server then the communication is encrypted between that server and the handset - RIM might forward the message on, but has no ability to read it in transit.

RIM's problem is getting that concept across to politicians, who gain nothing through understanding. So we have the government saying it will block all BlackBerry communications next month if the technically impossible isn't achieved.

The water is then muddied by those politicians making statements to the press asserting that RIM has complied with the demands. Such statements are picked up by local newspapers, who enjoy reporting victory over a foreign company, and by the time anyone realises it's not true the story is old news.

RIM don't seem any more aware of what's going to happen than the rest of us. The Canadian company rarely comments on governmental negotiations, other than reiterating that it likes to comply with the law, but now RIM feels it necessary to remind us that the Indian government has previously said that BlackBerry users shouldn't be singled out (thus any ban must also apply to, say, Skype) and that lawful intercept of BlackBerry communications can easily be carried out at the end user's premises (the customer's BlackBerry Enterprise Server).

It's not the kind of statement a company puts out during ongoing negotiations - more like something one says before walking out of the meeting. Whether such dramatics will cut any ice with the Indians we'll have to find out next month. ®

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