India meets to decide on BlackBerry

Indian officials meet on Monday to decide whether to ban some of Research In Motion’s BlackBerry services, a day before the deadline runs out for the firm to give security agencies access to its secure data.

Government sources have said the August 31 deadline could be extended if Research In Motion says it has a solution to allowing monitoring of emails and asks for more time to avoid disruption of its services in the world’s fastest-growing mobile phone market.

Monday’s meeting will consider a technical report prepared after two days of talks last week between RIM officials and Indian security agencies. The report, sources said, contains some suggestions on how a secure email on BlackBerry may be accessed.

“A final decision will be taken after considering all aspects and national security interests,” a source in the interior ministry told Reuters. The outcome of the meeting may not be announced on Monday. The sources asked not to be identified because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

The meeting is due to start at 5 p.m. local (7:30 a.m. EDT).

India says it wants the means to fully track and read BlackBerry’s secure email and instant messaging services that officials fear could be misused by militants.

India could become the first country to ban the services, even though several governments have raised concerns about the popular device over activities from terrorism to peddling pornography.

Saudi Arabia, fretful over online services like pornography, has reached a deal with RIM on the messenger service, a consumer product outside of the secure corporate domain. India too has reached a deal till November on Messenger service, according to government sources.

Such concerns have also been raised by Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, with the latter giving RIM an October 11 deadline.

Analysts see no easy fix to the standoff as RIM says it has no way of intercepting the data that countries want access to. RIM has denied media reports that say it provided unique wireless services or access to any one country.

A shutdown would affect about 1 million users in India out of a total 41 million BlackBerry users worldwide, allowing them to use the devices only for calls and Internet browsing.
Source: Reuters

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