Indian government to meet operators over the BlackBerry

Indian government officials plan to meet on Thursday with mobile operators to discuss access to BlackBerry data, according to informed sources.

Home Ministry Spokesman Onkar Kedia confirmed that G.K. Pillai, the home secretary, would be meeting with operators, but said he did not know whether a shutdown of Research in Motion’s BlackBerry service is being considered.

Analysts say the meeting will be an opportunity for the Indian government to press service providers that they must give security agencies the right to intercept communications, including BlackBerry services, under certain circumstances according to licensing rules.

RIM’s India spokesman said he was not aware of the meeting or whether his company’s executives had been invited to attend.

India and RIM have had previous problems about the BlackBerry before. In 2008, India demanded the right to intercept BlackBerry communications. Indian security agencies wanted to monitor BlackBerry communications, as they believed terrorists are increasingly using mobile and online technologies to plan their attacks.

But the demand was suddenly dropped, with no reason given. India’s Telecom Secretary said at the time that “there is no threat from BlackBerry services.”

India is getting more proactive about security in response to public safety concerns, said Kamlesh Bhatia, a principal research analyst at Gartner, on Wednesday. The government is also scrutinizing telecommunication networking equipment used across the country, he added.

RIM’s BlackBerry service has come under scrutiny from a number of countries, including Saudi Arabia, which threatened to discontinue the service last week. The kingdom said on Tuesday that it was allowing the BlackBerry Messenger service to continue after RIM agreed to provide access to servers located in the country, a source said.

The United Arab Emirates has also threatened to discontinue the BlackBerry service in the country from October 11, citing security reasons. Indonesia’s regulator said last week it wanted to have BlackBerry servers in the country rather than have data sent to RIM’s servers in Canada.

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