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RIM ‘optimistic’ on sorting BlackBerry matter with India

New Delhi/Toronto, Aug 13 (IANS) Senior officials from Canada’s Research in Motion (RIM) Friday met the top brass of India’s interior ministry in a last-ditch attempt to resolve their stand-off over access to decoded data from BlackBerry phones to security agencies.

‘I’m optimistic,’ said Robert Crow, the canadian company’s vice president for industry, government and university relations, after the meeting in India’s capital but declined further comment. He had also met with Home Minister P. Chidambaram a day earlier.

The meeting came a day after India set Aug 31 as the deadline for all BlackBerry service providers to allow access to its encrypted data, even as the Canadian developer said in a statement from Toronto that it ‘has drawn a firm line’ on the matter.

The company said it already provides telecom carriers some capabilities for ‘lawful’ access to its data, but added that it also insists that any such capability given to carriers be limited to four criteria.

The company reacted after the Indian government set the deadline for access to two of BlackBerry’s offerings — the enterprise service, used mainly by corporates to connect their mail system with the device, and its messenger for instant data communications.

Listing the four criteria, the Waterloo-based firm said one such capability was ‘limited to the strict context of lawful access and national security requirements as governed by the country’s judicial oversight and rules of law’.

The second was that these capabilities should be ‘technology and vendor neutral,’ which means RIM won’t allow itself to be subjected to conditions that are greater than those required from its competitors.

The third criteria is that it cannot be forced to change the basic security architecture of its enterprise services, which are the same across the globe. And the fourth point is it has a uniform global standard and makes no special deals with individual countries.

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

‘Contrary to rumours, the security architecture is same around the world and RIM truly has no ability to provide its customers’ encryption keys,’ RIM said, referring to the enterprise product that is preferred by corporations and businesses.

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

Research in Motion has shipped over 100 million BlackBerry devices till date, with some 46 million users through 550 telecom carriers in over 175 countries. The company doesn’t share country-specific data, but estimates suggest around one million users in India.

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

India’s directive on BlackBerry came after a meeting convened by Home Secretary G.K. Pillai with senior officers of the Intelligence Bureau, another intelligence gathering agency, the National Technical Research Organisation and the Department of Telecommunications.

‘If a technical solution is not provided by Aug 31, 2010, the government will review the position and take steps to block these two services from the network,’ said a statement by India’s home ministry after the meeting.

‘The meeting asked the Department of Telecom to convey to the service providers that two Blackberry services, namely business enterprises services and messenger Services, be made accessible to law enforcement agencies by Aug 31,’ said the statement.

(Rana Ajit can be reached at rana.ajit@ians.in and Gurmukh Singh at gurmukh.s@ians.in)

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