16 August 2010

Alert

Authorities give Research In Motion deadline to provide access to BlackBerry services


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(RSF/IFEX) - On 12 August 2010, the Indian authorities told Research In Motion (RIM), the Canadian company that makes the BlackBerry smartphone, that it has until 31 August to provide India's intelligence agencies with access to BlackBerry's encrypted email and messaging services or else those services will be shut down in India.

Although the demand is being made in the name of national security, it reflects a desire to monitor and even filter communications. But India is taking advantage of the pressure being put on RIM by other countries to blackmail the company itself.

The Indian authorities are using the fact that Islamist militants employed mobile phones and satellite phones to carry out the November 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai that killed 166 people. This kind of technology can be put to harmful use, the authorities argue.

On 13 August, the "Financial Time"s speculated that the Indian authorities could also demand access to other encrypted networks such as Google and Skype.

RIM tried to reassure users in a statement on 12 August, saying it was doing its best to cooperate with governments and satisfy national security concerns while protecting the rights of consumers and corporate clients. It reaffirmed its intention not to reach any specific agreements with individual governments.

Saudi Arabia is meanwhile still allowing BlackBerry's instant messaging service to operate. The Saudi authorities had decided to suspend it on 6 August, but the blocking lasted only a few hours. Talks aimed at finding a compromise are apparently continuing.

RIM is nonetheless already cooperating with certain countries. It agreed at the start of August to block access in Kuwait to more than 3,000 porn sites.

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