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BlackBerry draws 'a firm line' on access to key services

world Updated: Aug 13, 2010 12:56 IST

IANS
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With India setting Aug 31 as the deadline for BlackBerry and its carrier partners to allow access to its two types of encrypted data, device maker Research In Motion (RIM) on Thursday said it "has drawn a firm line" on access to communications on its smart phones.

Since BlackBerry's basic voice and SMS services are already available to its security agencies, India is demanding access to the BlackBerry enterprise server mostly used by corporations and its widely popular BlackBerry Messenger Service which is used by its corporate and consumers alike.

"If a technical solution is not provided by 31st August, 2010, the government will review the position and take steps to block these two services from the network," India said Thursday after RIM officials met with home minister P. Chidambaram.

Responding to the deadline by India which is home to more than a million BlackBerry subscribers, RIM said it already provides its local telecom carriers some capabilities for "lawful" access to its data. But the Canadian wireless giant added that it "has drawn a firm line" on access by service carriers.

The Waterloo-based company outlined four criteria in providing these capabilities to partner carriers.

One, such capabilities are "limited to the strict context of lawful access and national security requirements as governed by the country's judicial oversight and rules of law".

Two, these capabilities should be "technology and vendor neutral". Which means RIM won't allow itself to be subjected to conditions its competitors aren't subjected to.

Third, RIM is not forced to change the fundamental security architecture behind its enterprise product.

Four, it (RIM) maintains a "global standard" for lawful access and makes no special deals with individual countries.

"Contrary to any rumours, the security architecture is the same around the world and RIM truly has no ability to provide its customers' encryption keys," RIM said, referring to the security of the BlackBerry enterprise product which is preferred by corporations and businesses.

According to the company, the BlackBerry enterprise server was designed in such a way as to "preclude RIM, or any third party, from reading encrypted information under any circumstances since RIM does not store or have access to the encrypted data".

So it remains to be seen how it fulfills India's first demand of access to the BlackBerry enterprise communications.

India's second demand for access to the widely popular BlackBerry Messenger also poses a big question mark for RIM which is using the feature as its trump-card in the face of onslaught from iPhone 4 and Google Android devices.

More than 25 million of the total 46 million BlackBerry subscribers worldwide use BlackBerry Messenger. According to RIM co-CEO Jim Balsillie, BlackBerry Messenger is so popular that its use has shot up nearly 500 percent during the fiscal year.