According to a report in Mint, the Government of India and RIM have moved closer to an agreement on providing Indian security agencies with lawful access to BlackBerry Enterprise Services. BES is what a large number of companies use to encrypt mail communication and is pretty much RIM’s bread and butter.
The report goes on to cite two unnamed home ministry officials who said that after a series of meetings that were held last week between executives from RIM, officials from the home ministry, (NTRO) National Technical Research Organization and the Intelligence Bureau. One of the officials said that RIM has agreed “in principle” to give them access, then added that they would discuss the matter among themselves first and find a way to meet the demands, after which they would be given Live access to BES.
The Guardian has warned that the coast isn’t clear yet for India’s 400,000 BlackBerry users and that a black-out is still possible since months of back and forth between the Canadian company and the Indian Home Ministry has yielded no concrete results. RIM also released a statement reiterating that its talks with Indian Government have been ‘Consistent’ and ‘Productive’, I guess you have to agree to some extent since they’ve managed to avoid an outright ban for over 2 years.
With forecasts suggesting that BlackBerry is likely to sell more than 600,000 devices this year, it is a market the company can ill afford to lose. Especially given how Apple’s iOS and Android is eating into their global market share. But what impact could it have on RIM’s image if it is perceived to be ‘bending’ to India’s demands. An article in Fast Company carried this very interesting quote – “There is no doubt that RIM will get stick for this decision–after all, being seen to be cavalier with one’s customer data is just not cricket.” I’m not sure how cricket fits into the picture, unless the writer is implying that it is not likely to be perceived as a game. Which is a real possibility. Perhaps why RIM has repeatedly stated that no changes will be made to its security architecture.
India has received flak in blogs like ReadWriteWeb for being paranoid and invading privacy in the past. But considering that it is repeatedly subjected to terrorist attacks many believe the concern is vital to its security. Google and Skype are likely to be next on the list.
Honestly, I don’t think any new ground has been broken with RIM – at least nothing in any of the reports suggests that there has. And with Canada’s Director of Intelligence due to arrive in India on Friday this issue is likely to be brought up. It all looks like a PR exercise to me. Hopefully, I’m wrong!
What do you think?