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BlackBerry playing hard to get: India

India’s security establishment insists the US was comfortable with the BlackBerry messenger service as its security agencies already had access to encrypted messages sent across its network.

delhi Updated: Aug 08, 2010 00:14 IST
atikku@hindustantimes.com

India’s security establishment insists the US was comfortable with the BlackBerry messenger service as its security agencies already had access to encrypted messages sent across its network.

The US had on Friday hinted at mediating between countries such as India, the UAE as well as Saudi Arabia and the Canadian company that makes BlackBerry smart phones, Research in Motion (RIM), to address “legitimate” security concerns of these nations.

RIM co-chief executive Michael Lazaridis this week told the Wall Street Journal the company could not grant special access to encrypted data and officials in those countries didn’t understand how the Internet worked.

Indian government officials have made it clear they weren’t buying this line.

On Saturday, AFP reported BlackBerry had “virtually” sealed a deal with Saudi Arabia on its encrypted messenger services to avert a ban that was to come into effect on Saturday.

“We will wait for the details of this agreement before moving ahead,” a senior Indian government official said.

The home ministry will convene a meeting with the Department of Telecom soon, possibly with mobile service providers too, and ask them to stop the BlackBerry messenger service.

“There is no other way… Services that cannot be intercepted (the BlackBerry messenger and the BlackBerry enterprise services) will have to be stopped,” the official said.

The Intelligence Bureau believes BlackBerry was playing hard to get for Delhi and other countries but had already complied with US security requirements.

The agency arrived at this conclusion two years ago on the findings of a team set up to figure how other countries were dealing with the challenge.

For a country that routinely sniffs phone conversations and emails for words that terrorists were likely to use, an Indian government official said, it was impossible that the US would close its eyes to the BlackBerry messenger service.