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BlackBerry ultimatum set by India

BlackBerry ultimatum set by India

Indian authorities have told BlackBerry manufacturer Research in Motion (RIM) that they need to gain access to the encrypted messaging service by the end of the month.

If RIM fails to meet India's demands, it could see the messaging and email capabilities of its flagship smartphones limited by a state-sponsored block.

RIM has been pilloried by several major world powers over perceived security threats posed by its encrypted messaging services, which cannot be accessed by governments.

In India it is believed that the terrorist attacks on Mumbai two years ago are seen as being key to the government's complaints, because the attackers allegedly used encrypted messages to organise their violent actions.

"Our message to RIM and service providers is that if they don't come up with a technical solution by 31 August, then the home ministry will take a view and will shut down BlackBerry Messenger and business enterprises services," said a ministerial spokesperson.

Many of India's most powerful politicians and officials convened to decide the fate of RIM's products and services within its borders and now it could be just over two and a half weeks before BlackBerry smartphones are outlawed.

"This is a significant moment. RIM must make a choice about its security architecture and the importance of the security and privacy of its customers, versus the importance of simply being able to operate in these countries," said industry analyst Tim Renowden.

"It must decide whether customers are better served with RIM offering services in their market, even with these restrictions, or not," Mr Renowden continued.

India's ultimatum resulted in a two per cent drop in RIM's shares and of the million BlackBerry smartphones in India, almost half are used by private individuals, representing a significant loss if it was forced to cease operations.

Despite RIM's predicament, many believe that these debates will have wider ramifications for other smartphone manufacturers and technology firms at large.

"This is not just a BlackBerry issue. Other technology firms encrypt their data and it would not surprise me if they were also forced to open up their encryption," said Mr Renowden.

RIM has allegedly relented to pressure from Saudi Arabian authorities over the same issue and could grant access to encrypted message data as a result. Whether it will be forced to do the same in India remains to be seen.

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