RIM opens BlackBerry to Indian security agencies

Facing bans in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, BlackBerry-maker RIM has agreed to allow Indian security agencies to monitor its services.
Executives have offered to allow Indian security agencies to monitor corporate email and to open up access to consumer email within 15 days, the Economic Times reported, quoting a Department of Telecommunications (DoT) internal document.
The company had been given a deadline at the end of July to ensure that its email and web services “can be read by security and intelligence agencies,” the paper said.
In meetings with Indian officials on July 27 and July 30, RIM also promised to provide tools to allow eavesdropping on its BlackBerry Messenger IM app within six to eight months.
RIM is to provide further details to the DoT today, after which the home ministry and Intelligence Bureau will make the final decision.
The firm’s concessions in India follow announcements the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia plan to ban BlackBerry email and other data services on security grounds.
Authorities in the UAE have already detained and interrogated one BlackBerry user who attempted to organize a protest against petrol prices using his RIM device’s instant messenger, and are hunting down five others, according to Opennet.net.
The BlackBerry’s strong security – all data sent from the devices is encrypted and sent to dedicated servers – is one of the main selling points, and giving in to government demands would “significantly undermine,” the firm’s security credentials, Ovum analyst Tim Renowden told Telecoms Europe.net.
RIM says it hopes to strike deals that meet national security needs while still providing secure services.
“While RIM does not disclose confidential regulatory discussions that take place with any government, RIM assures its customers that it is committed to continue delivering highly secure and innovative products that satisfy the needs of both customers and governments,” it said in a statement mailed to Telecoms Europe.net
A US State Department spokesman said the bans, if they go ahead, would set a “dangerous precedent,” by preventing the spread of new technologies, Reuters reports.