Par panel pulls up DoT for delay in resolving BlackBerry issue

"The committee expresses unhappiness over the way the extension after extension are being given to resolve such an important issue related to security of the country," the panel on information technology said in its latest report.

Security agencies have expressed concern on highly encrypted communication made through BlackBerry phones and have demanded Research-In-Motion (RIM), maker of BlackBerry phones, to provide them data in readable format.

"The committee has been apprised that out of the various services provided by BlackBerry, the BlackBerry Messenger and BlackBerry Enterprise Solution services cannot be intercepted in readable format, even if the encrypted message is made available by the service providers," the report said.

The Government gave three extensions to RIM, with the last date being March 31, 2011.
Before the end of its last extension, RIM highlighted number of other highly encrypted services being provided in the country by its competitors and sought to make it an industry issue.

Thereafter, the government formed a committee to come up with mechanism to deal with encryption issues for providing data access to security agencies which is mandatory under Indian Telegraph Act.

"Constitution of committee for the purpose is another delaying tactics," it said. Regarding the problem of highly encrypted data, the Department of Telecom (DoT) is of the view that when the message is in transition, the security agencies can intercept it but cannot read it because it is highly encrypted and it is a high level of encryption.

"We have consulted experts. The only solution is, we can ban it...but it can be perceived to be (a) retrograde step because it is not only BlackBerry which uses this kind of service but all kinds of enterprise communications also use it," the DoT sources said.

There are over one million BlackBerry subscribers in India and the number is growing fast. Indian security agencies have been demanding access to all BlackBerry services as part of its efforts to fight militancy and security threats over the Internet and through telephone communications.

The Committee has firmly said that no compromise can be made when it is the question of the security of the Nation. "The issue need to be taken strongly with BlackBerry so that the matter is resolved," the panel said.

It has also asked Telecom Department to analyse the position internationally to know how the issue has been addressed by other nations.

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