India to target Google, Skype messaging next - FT

SINGAPORE Thu Aug 12, 2010 10:17pm EDT

SINGAPORE Aug 13 (Reuters) - India may shut down Google (GOOG.O) and Skype Internet-based messaging services over security concerns, the Financial Times reported on Friday, as the government threatened a similar crackdown on BlackBerry services.

The Financial Times quoted from the minutes of a July 12 meeting between telecommunication ministry security officials and operator associations to look at possible solutions to "intercept and monitor" encrypted communications.

"There was consensus that there [is] more than one type of service for which solutions are to be explored. Some of them are BlackBerry, Skype, Google etc," according to the department's minutes. "It was decided first to undertake the issue of BlackBerry and then the other services."

On Thursday, the Indian government became the latest of several nations that have threatened to cut off Research In Motion's RIM.TO RIMM.O encrypted BlackBerry email and instant messaging services if the Canadian company does not address national security concerns. [nSGE67B09R]

India has set an Aug 31. deadline for RIM. It wants access in a readable format to encrypted BlackBerry communication, on grounds it could be used by militants. Pakistani-based militants used mobile and satellite phones in the 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people.

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For a TAKE-A-LOOK on BlackBerry, click [nSGE67B0KN

For a Q+A on BlackBerry's security, click [nN12132220]

Graphic on the BlackBerry encryption system:

here

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India's demands follow a deal with Saudi Arabia, where a source said Research In Motion agreed to give authorities codes for BlackBerry Messenger users. The United Arab Emirates, Lebanon and Algeria also seek access.

Officials say RIM had proposed tracking emails without sharing encryption details, but that was not enough.

The Financial Times report said representatives from two of the telecom operator associations present confirmed the details of the meeting earlier this month.

"At the last security meeting, the agencies were talking about BlackBerry. They were also coming out heavily on Skype and Google," said Rajesh Chharia, president of the Internet Service Providers Association of India.

A shutdown would affect one million users in India out of the smartphone's 41 million users. India is one of RIM's fastest growing markets.

RIM, unlike rivals Nokia (NOK1V.HE) and Apple APPL.O, operates its own network through secure servers located in Canada and other countries, such as Britain.

RIM's shares ended more than 2 percent lower at C$56.44 in the Toronto market.

In a matter of a few weeks, the BlackBerry device -- long the darling of the world's CEOs and politicians, including U.S. President Barack Obama -- has become a target for its sealed email and messaging services with governments around the world. (Writing by Miral Fahmy, editing by Dhara Ranasinghe)

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