The government has manual access to chat communication on BlackBerry messenger services and expects to get automated access from Jan. 1, Home Secretary G.K. Pillai said on Friday. India, which along with several other countries has expressed concerns that BlackBerry services could be used to stir political or social instability, had threatened BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion with a ban if it were denied access to the data. RIM won a 60-day reprieve at the end of August after offering India a solution to monitor BlackBerry data, a claim yet to be confirmed by the Canadian firm. “We have manual access to the messenger service. We want automated access and we are hopeful of getting it from January 1,” Pillai told Reuters. At the moment, security agencies are getting manual printouts of chat messages within four to five hours of placing their requirements with RIM, said a home ministry source, adding that once automated access is given, chat messages could be tracked on a real-time basis.
India wanted access for its security agencies to communication both in BlackBerry Messenger and secure corporate email services, and government officials have said the solution provided so far is limited to the messenger service. RIM has repeatedly said that neither it nor any wireless network operator have the keys needed to read the encrypted data sent through its BlackBerry Enterprise Solution (BES) for corporate email services.
RIM has also told the Indian government that the company does not have a key to convert encrypted communication into readable format for corporate emails, according to an internal note from the Indian telecoms ministry, a copy of which was seen by Reuters. Still, Indian officials are talking to RIM about some solution for accessing corporate emails, a home ministry source said. Satchit Gayakwad, RIM's spokesman in India, said his firm's talks with the Indian government were on, but declined to give further details, citing confidentiality of such talks.
Analysts see no easy fix to the standoff as RIM says it has no way of intercepting the data that countries want to access. RIM has denied media reports that it provided unique wireless services or access to any one country. As part of its broader electronic security crackdown, the Indian government also plans to send notices to Google and Skype to set up servers in India and allow full monitoring of communication, government officials have said.
The United Arab Emirates has threatened to suspend BlackBerry Messenger, email and web browser services from Oct. 11 unless the government gets access to encrypted messages. A top Abu Dhabi official said on Sunday they were “very optimistic” about reaching an agreement with RIM before the deadline. The Obama administration is preparing legislation that could force RIM to intercept and unscramble encrypted communication, according to a report in the New York Times.