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India cracks down on the Blackberry

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The use of the humble Blackberry may be outlawed in India if Research in Motion fails to comply with the government’s strict security demands.

India’s Department of Telecommunications is under parliamentary pressure to force Blackberry maker RIM to stop offering services in a highly encrypted format.

Security agencies have long expressed concern over Blackberry's encryption, and have demanded RIM provides the data in a readable or intercept-friendly format.

The agencies are demanding access to all BlackBerry services as part of India's drive to fight militancy and security threats over the internet and mobile communications.

The DoT has given RIM several extensions pending the development of a solution that will appease the government and its desire to control security.

"The committee expresses unhappiness over the way the extension after extension are being given to resolve such an important issue related to security of the country," the parliamentary panel on IT said in its latest report.

Before the end of its last extension, RIM claimed pointed the finger at rivals operating in the country that also offer highly encrypted services claiming it was an industry wide issue.

The committee has firmly said that no compromise can be made. Speculation is emerging that DoT may force RIM to set up a server in India to help with government interception.

RIM had earlier agreed that it would provide the IP address of the enterprise server, located in the customer’s premise, as well as the PIN and the IMEI number of each BlackBerry mobile phone used by a subscriber to enable security agencies access the data in a readable format. But this failed to appease the government’s concerns.

It is estimated that there are between 500,000 and 600,000 BlackBerry users across India. The proposed solution follows the Saudi Arabia government’s lead where it compelled RIM to set up a server within the country. However, the UAE has already banned the service, saying it does not meet its security concerns. ®

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