Wednesday, April 16, 2008

India - restrictions on Blackberry use

Government asks operators to restrict 'certain' BlackBerry services

The Home Ministry has asked telecom operators not to offer “certain” BlackBerry services until a proper monitoring system is put in place, said Minister of State for Home Affairs Sriprakash Jaiswal.

“The government has issued instructions to all mobile service providers, inter alia asking them not to connect or provide/run certain BlackBerry services unless the required monitoring systems are in place,” Jaiswal said, even as he highlighted that it has not imposed restrictions on the use of BlackBerry. The Minister was answering a query in the Lok Sabha.

By “certain" services the government meant that the four service providers currently offering BlackBerry services in India - Airtel, Vodafone, BPL and Reliance Communications - should temporarily stop the services between one BlackBerry to another. This is because calls and e-mails exchanged within BlackBerry handsets cannot be intercepted as the servers are based in Canada.

India has asked Research in Motion (RIM), the licensor of BlackBerry, which has over 12 million users globally, to route all its calls and e-mails through servers based in India to allow security agencies to read them as it fears its usage by terrorist outfits.

RIM officials are believed to have sought time till the end of the month to explain their position and address the issues voiced by the government.

India has also warned of “strict action” if RIM fails to come out with a viable solution to such a serious issue, telecom ministry sources said.

BlackBerry services were introduced in India in October 2004. The services came under the government's scanner last year when an application by Tata Teleservices to launch a similar service was rejected over security concerns.

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