RIM suggests forum on BlackBerry solution in India

NEW DELHI Thu Aug 26, 2010 7:20pm BST

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NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Research in Motion RIM.TO offered on Thursday to lead an industry forum to look at India's need to have "lawful access" to BlackBerry's encrypted mail and messenger in the latest effort to stave off the blocking of the popular service in the world's fastest growing telecoms market.

Executives of the Canadian firm have been meeting government officials in last-ditch negotiations aimed at finding a solution to India's desire to access the encrypted data that security agencies fear could be misused to launch attacks or create political instability.

"RIM would lead an industry forum focussed on supporting the lawful access needs of law enforcement agencies while preserving the legitimate information security needs of corporations and other organizations in India," the firm said in a statement.

"RIM has assured the government of India of its continued support and respect for India's legal and national security requirements."

RIM said singling out BlackBerry for blocking would be counter-productive for India, as it would limit the efficiency and productivity of local firms.

Earlier, a senior government source said Home Secretary Gopal Pillai would be presented a report on the talks on Saturday, and on Monday would take a decision on RIM's fate.

Governments around the world have been concerned that BlackBerry's encrypted services could be used for activities from terrorism to peddling pornography.

Last week, an Indian official said BlackBerry's messenger service may be allowed to continue beyond an August 31 deadline after RIM assured India of manual access to instant messages by September 1, and automated access by November.

The government reiterated on Thursday it will shut down RIM's secure email service if no solution is found.

"In case no solution is provided those services which cannot be intercepted and monitored in readable format may be banned by the government," India's junior telecoms minister, Sachin Pilot, said in parliament.

A shutdown would affect about 1 million users in India out of a total 41 million BlackBerry users worldwide, allowing them to use the devices only for calls and Internet browsing.

RIM uses powerful codes to scramble, or encrypt, email messages as they travel between a BlackBerry device and a computer known as a BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) that is designed to secure those emails.

Indian telecommunications officials say they had been told by RIM the only way an email could be intercepted is when it temporarily stores itself in a server in a decrypted form before it gets delivered.

"We will discuss all possibilities and see if we can come up with any solution," another Indian government source said.

India is one of a number of countries putting pressure on RIM, which has built the reputation of the BlackBerry, popular with business professionals and politicians, around confidentiality.

(Writing by C.J. Kuncheria)

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