BlackBerry: Govt convenes meeting of telecom operators
Moneylife Digital Team 09 August 2010

New Delhi: With BlackBerry makers passing on the buck to telecom operators for monitoring its services, the government has called a meeting of service providers this week to discuss the issue, reports PTI.

Official sources said while the onus of giving access to security agencies to monitor the information on these phones lies with the service providers, the home ministry will ask them as to which services were not accessible.

"We will tell the service providers in categorical terms that the government will allow them to offer only those services which could be intercepted by the security agencies.

If any service cannot be intercepted, we will not allow them to run such services in India," sources said.

According to the licensing conditions, service providers are liable to put in a mechanism allowing security agencies to intercept any conversation or message of any subscriber whenever required.

As telecom service providers like Airtel, Vodafone, Reliance Communications (RCom), the Tatas and the government-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL) are offering BlackBerry services, it is the responsibility of these operators to ensure that the security agencies get access to all services they offer.

Sources further said the maker of BlackBerry phones, Research in Motion (RIM), has conveyed to the operators that services like email and voicemail can be intercepted by the security agencies but no commitment has been given to services like BlackBerry Messenger.

Last week, Blackberry made a fresh attempt to break the logjam over its services in India by offering "metadata" and relevant information to security agencies which will enable them in lawful interception but failed to enthuse them.

RIM representatives explained that the BlackBerry mobile device sends the encrypted email which is sent to BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) located with the service provider.

BES decrypts messages and sends it to email server of the service provider where it remains stored in decrypted form.

Then it is pushed to the BlackBerry device in encrypted form.

After some persuasion, the representatives agreed that "they can provide the metadata of the message like Internet Protocol address of BES and PIN and International Mobile Equipment Identity of the BlackBerry mobile," sources said.

Metadata is loosely defined as data about data. It provides information about a certain item's content like how large the picture is, the colour depth, the image resolution, when the image was created, and other data. A text document's metadata may contain information about how long the document is, who the author is, when the document was written, and a short summary of the document.

However, the sources said the RIM, which has nearly one million subscribers in India, failed to enthuse the security agencies who want an uninterrupted access to the messaging services on BlackBerry platform.

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