Research In Motion (RIM) has set up a facility in Mumbai to help the Indian government carry out lawful surveillance of its BlackBerry services, according to people familiar with the matter, but the move has not fully satisfied India's appetite for access to messages on the popular smartphones.
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Last year, India threatened to shut down BlackBerry encrypted email and instant messaging services because it could not wiretap them. The government put the onus on Waterloo, Ontario-based RIM to come up with solutions. Several government-set deadlines have passed and, though India still is not happy with its surveillance capabilities, it is no longer threatening to shut down the service.
RIM partly assuaged India by setting up the small Mumbai facility earlier this year to handle surveillance requests from India. India can submit the name of a suspect its investigators want to wiretap, and RIM will return decoded messages for that individual, as long as it is satisfied the request has legal authorization, according to the people familiar with the matter.
The Mumbai facility handles lawful intercept requests for consumer services including the BlackBerry Messenger chat service, these people said. India saw the move as a positive step, but would prefer an arrangement where it has the ability to decode messages itself, so that it can conduct surveillance without disclosing the names of suspects to RIM.
India still has no method to intercept and decode BlackBerry enterprise email, which is used by corporate customers and features a higher level of encryption than consumer email and instant messaging. BlackBerry has repeatedly said it does not have the keys to unlock enterprise email messages -- security is one of the service's key selling points. The Indian government is not as concerned as it once was about enterprise email, however, since growth is happening mostly in consumer services, the people familiar with the matter said
Another idea India has explored is whether it can put an official on RIM's premises in Canada to help facilitate the nation's surveillance requests in a more secure manner, according to a source. It was not clear how far that proposal went.