RIM may get a break in India after gov says issue not specific to it

Canadian smartphone maker Research in Motion, which makes the blackberry mobile phones, seems to have succeeded in convincing the Indian government that it has been “singled out” in India’s quest for statutory monitoring.

Telecom Secretary R Chandrasekhar said the government does not want to “single out” any one company and that he believes the issue of monitoring and interception affects “a whole class of services and not just one company.”

The comments, coming two days ahead of a crucial committee report on the security impasse, are seen as crucial for RIM as it vindicates the stand taken by the Canadian corporation that it is being singled out simply because it is the market leader.

Indian government wants RIM to facilitate security agencies to tap into and monitor encrypted communication between its clients — including companies who are averse to letting the government get access to their internal documents.

The Canadian firm had hired the services of high profile lobbyists in New Delhi to get its point across to the government that none of the enterprise connectivity providers in India or abroad allow governments to snoop on their clients. It also put in an ad-hoc mechanism that will allow security agencies to examine communications of individual blackberry account holders, but not corporate account holders.

India’s home minister, P Chidambaram, had expressed his displeasure at the ‘half measure’ and wanted total access, something the Canadian corporation flatly denied, especially since other providers were not being forced to do so.

Unlike other enterprise connectivity providers like BP, AT&T, Sify etc., RIM also provides last mile encrypted connectivity on wireless devices — making the service more powerful that its peers.

Chandrasekhar said the Committee going into the matter will submit its report in two days and his department will hold talks with the security agencies on the basis of the report.

Any move to ensure full transparency of corporate data to the Indian government is likely to raise alarms in international corporate circles as several kinds of highly sensitive information — including credit card details of American citizens — are transmitted over corporate networks in India.

India’s IT and BPO sectors, which helps absorb half of India’s $100 billion trade deficit, depends on highly secured enterprise connectivity ‘pipes’ to service clients in Europe, America and elsewhere. However, unlike RIM’s corporate clients, very few of them extend their connectivity to hand-held devices, though they are extended to Laptops through encrypted virtual networks.

RIM Ceo Mike Lazaridis recently walked out of an interview with the BBC when repeatedly asked about its ‘security problems’ in India