India to get BlackBerry data through customers

BANGALORE —  India has initiated talks with companies in the country to provide access to BlackBerry corporate e-mails when required by security agencies, according to a report on Sunday in The Wall Street Journal.

The country had earlier demanded that Research In Motion provide Indian law enforcement agencies access to communications on its BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES).

RIM has maintained throughout the dispute over access with India and some other countries that it does not possess a “master key” nor does any “back door” exist in the system that would allow RIM or any third party to gain access to encrypted corporate information on the BES.

G.K. Pillai, India’s home secretary, said in an interview that the government had a round of meetings with undisclosed companies, the Journal reported. Their response was that if the government told them of a suspect in their company who is a national security issue, they will provide the necessary access, Pillai said.

India’s home ministry was not immediately available for comment.

Pillai’s comment appears to tally with a statement by RIM on Friday in which it said that the Indian government has acknowledged that any potential policy or approach requiring lawful access to strongly encrypted enterprise data sent to or from corporate and government organizations “would need to occur through the enterprise customers themselves since RIM has no ability to provide the customers’ encryption keys.”

A resolution of this nature will spare RIM any criticism that it has provided access to the Indian government to its BES, which it promotes as a highly secure service.

RIM’s statement on Friday followed a statement by the government that its security agencies are still not able to intercept and monitor in a readable format the communications made through RIM’s Messenger and enterprise services.

India’s home ministry said in October that RIM had assured the Indian government that it will provide the final solution for the lawful interception of the Messenger service by Jan. 31.

Pillai told The Wall Street Journal that RIM has already provided a solution to the government for its BlackBerry Messenger chat service, that will be in place by the end of January.

RIM had provided an undisclosed interim arrangement for interception of BlackBerry Messenger service, the government said in October. The government did not however discuss the BES service at that point, indicating that RIM was holding its ground on the issue.

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