India Takes Aim at BlackBerrys

It looks like another Asian country is trying to throw its weight against a large international technology company that has its roots and headquarters in North America. No, not China versus Google. This time it is India versus Research In Motion Ltd. (RIM). The complaint is that RIM makes it too hard for Indian intelligence to read everyone in the country’s encrypted information off of their BlackBerrys. RIM encrypts everyone’s data to protect its corporate clients from corporate espionage and malicious hackers. Now those same features are coming under attack and India is threatening to ban BlackBerry services in the country.

India threatened similar sanctions against RIM back in 2008 if its intelligence agencies were not allowed access to read messages sent through BlackBerrys. Everything seemed to work itself out back then, but the complaint has resurfaced. This time Skype, Google, and RIM are all being targeted. The problem stems from a 2008 law that lets intelligence agencies demand the decryption keys whenever it needs (or wants) to.

While India is a democracy, everyone in North America must be shaking their heads. Whatever happened to privacy? Surely a search warrant or something could be requested if a judge deemed the evidence supporting such a request was valid, and I am sure that RIM would comply. Blanket laws like this strip away the privacy you would assume everyone should be entitled to.

However, India has had its share of Maoist rebels killing soldiers and derailing trains, not to mention terrorist attacks from radical Islamic groups. Desperate times call for desperate measures perhaps? Then again, modified cell phones that encrypt all outgoing calls are available  online albiet for a hefty price, so this makes me wonder if India’s new demand is a little behind the curve. If the country’s intelligence community cannot decrypt Blackberry data, what is to stop individuals from buying much more sophisticated devices and using those for illicit activity? Food for thought.

Have an opinion on all the flack that North American companies have been taking abroad lately for rolling out technology for consumers that the rest of the world cannot keep up with or monitor?

It seems that Indian intelligence is even having trouble intercepting Skype calls (thus the complaint against Skype).

How should North American companies respond to such requests? We want to hear your opinion.

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