India threatens to block some BlackBerry services

India will ask service providers in the country to ensure that some BlackBerry services are made accessible to its law enforcement agencies by Aug. 31, or face a block of these services.

The decision was made at a meeting on Thursday called by the country’s home secretary, G.K.Pillai. Government security agencies and the Department of Telecommunications (DOT) attended the meeting.

The DOT has been asked to convey these instructions to the operators, Onkar Kedia, a spokesman for the home ministry said.

The Indian government is asking for access to BlackBerry’s enterprise server and its instant messaging application.

If a technical solution is not provided by Aug. 31, the government will take steps to block these two services from the network, Kedia said.

Law enforcement agencies in the country already have access to some BlackBerry services like voice, SMS (short message service) and BIS (BlackBerry Internet Service), the government said. Access to these services was likely obtained in a deal struck in 2008 when India demanded access to communications data on BlackBerry networks .

Under Indian law, service providers have to give law enforcement agencies access to communications on their networks, under certain conditions, including providing decryption keys.

India is getting more proactive about security in response to increased threats to public safety, Kamlesh Bhatia, a principal research analyst at Gartner, said on Wednesday. The government has, for example, also introduced security checks on telecommunications equipment used by service providers in the country, he added.

Research In Motion’s spokesman in India did not return calls.

RIM’s BlackBerry service has come under scrutiny from a number of countries, including Saudi Arabia, which last week threatened to discontinue the service. The kingdom said on Tuesday that it was allowing the BlackBerry Messenger service to continue, as part of its regulations were met. Saudi Arabia reached the decision after RIM agreed to provide it access to servers located in the country, according to an official with the country’s regulator, the Communications and Information Technology Commission, who declined to be named.

The United Arab Emirates has also threatened to discontinue the BlackBerry service from Oct. 11, citing security reasons. Indonesia’s regulator said last week it wanted to have BlackBerry servers in the country as that would be safer than sending data to RIM’s servers in Canada. Lebanon’s regulator is also planning to start talks with RIM on providing access to data on the BlackBerry network to its security agencies.

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