RIM says competition taking advantage of India problems

The company is trying to get other technology companies into the debate with the Indian government

Research In Motion has accused unnamed competitors of trying to compound and profit from its problems in India by "suggesting or implying" that RIM's BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) will be singled out by Indian regulators, even as their own products that use encryption will escape scrutiny.

RIM said in a customer update on Tuesday that it had been assured by senior Indian government officials that it would not be singled out, and that any policy relating to "lawful access" requirements for encrypted enterprise or VPN (virtual private network) communications would be applied to all products and services that use encryption in India.

The company also debunked reports that it was under an obligation to provide access to communications on BES to Indian law enforcement agencies by a Jan. 31 deadline, the company said.

The Jan. 31 deadline was a "mutually agreed target" date between RIM and the Indian government only for the delivery of a solution to Indian carriers for lawful access to RIM's consumer messaging services, which include BlackBerry Messenger and BlackBerry Internet Service email. The interception facility was delivered to carriers ahead of schedule, RIM said.

Indian government officials were not immediately available to comment on RIM's update.

RIM has maintained that it cannot technically provide access to BES, its corporate service.

India now wants to demand access to communications on BES through mobile service providers, according to reports. Indian law allows the government to require operators to provide access when directed.

But RIM has said in the past that the architecture of the BES does not allow either RIM or service providers the technical ability to access communications on that platform, as the encryption keys are held by customers.

RIM is trying to expand the scope of the discussion on interception with the Indian government to ensure that other providers of products and services using end-to-end encryption, a feature of enterprise grade virtual private networks (VPNs), are also included in a "lawful access" policy by the government.

It hinted on Tuesday at which other companies it would like included in this discussion, when it referred to Apple, Cisco, Good Technology, Google, Hewlett-Packard, HTC, Microsoft, Motorola, Nokia, Samsung and Sony Ericsson in a partial list of technology companies that utilize strong encryption in their products and services in India.

The Indian government has previously said it would demand lawful access to communications on Google and Skype's services, but has not taken any action so far in this direction.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com

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John Ribeiro

IDG News Service
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