Indian government has given Research In Motion, the makers of Blackberry, and country’s telecom companies an ultimatum – enable the state security agencies to monitor contents transmitted on Blackberry within 15 days or face license suspension.
RIM apparently has a “fool-proof” security system in place to encrypt the messages when they are transmitted from one user to another and government agencies have so far been unable to crack this beast.
The state snoopers are angling to get access to the algorithms needed to decrypt the messages. Earlier it was reported that services would be disrupted at the end of March if no headway is made.
At present Vodaphone, Airtel, Reliance, BPL are running Blackberry services in the country. If the order is carried out, more than 400,000 users would be affected. Not to forget the loss that the companies will have to incur.
As far as telephone is concerned, everything is out there in the open. Be it the calls or emails (through Blackberry), or SMSes, everything is available (or will soon be made available) to the government.
This move by the Indian government opens a Pandora’s Box of questions. It would also be interesting to find out whether Indian government is alone in this or other governments around the world routine indulge in snooping Blackberry messages. Will the Indian government need a court mandated warrant before checking out somebody’s inbox, or will they use it at their discretion. Also, if/when the decrypting algorithm are handed over to the government agency, what if they are further passed on to an unauthorized entity or individual leading to potential abuse or corporate espionage?