BlackBerry trips on intelligence alert

India’s intelligence community tells the Govt not to back down and let BlackBerry services continue out of the ambit of surveillance, reports Aloke Tikku.
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Updated on Apr 08, 2008 02:05 AM IST
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Hindustan Times | By, New Delhi

India’s intelligence community is putting its foot down and telling the government not to back down and let BlackBerry services continue out of the ambit of surveillance by security agencies.

In a report to the home ministry, security agencies have cautioned that anti-national elements could use Blackberry services to escape any possibility of detection. “Some cases have already come to notice where hawala operators are opting for BlackBerry services,” said a security official.

The report drafted by security agencies comes in the backdrop of attempts between cellular operators and BlackBerry maker Research In Motion (RIM) with the department of telecommunications to find a workable solution through this week to address security concerns.

Security agencies intercept thousands of phone calls every year to keep a tab on criminals and terrorists.

“If Blackberry services remain out of this loop, it would be natural to expect people like them to switch over to escape any chance of surveillance… In due course, we might as well stop all interceptions and let everyone have a free run,” an official said.

But that, he said, was a decision for the government to take. “It is our job to bring to the notice of the government anything which threatens national security… The government can take a view that this gaping hole in the security grid should continue… We cannot,” the official said.

RIM encrypts data sent over its systems to a higher level than can be handled by security agencies. Indian telecom licensing conditions make it incumbent for operators to provide facilities for lawful interceptions.

Security agencies have already asked the government to get BlackBerry to install a server in India through which the traffic would pass, making it possible for them to snoop on data after getting authorisation from the government.

The mobile operators’ association, Cellular Operators Association of India, had last week, however, sounded an optimistic note on a breakthrough, pointing that RIM could come up with response to address the security concerns as early as this week.

A RIM spokesperson told PTI that the company operates in more than 130 countries around the world and follows the regulatory requirements of governments. RIM does not comment on confidential regulatory matters or speculation on such matters in any given country, the spokesperson said.


    Aloke Tikku has covered internal security, transparency and politics for Hindustan Times. He has a keen interest in legal affairs and dabbles in data journalism.

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