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By Bappa Majumdar
NEW DELHI, Sept 21 (Reuters) - India is in talks with Research In Motion Ltd RIM.TO to gain access to BlackBerry corporate e-mails after securing access to instant messages sent via the devices, a senior government source said on Tuesday.
India, which along with several other countries has expressed concerns that BlackBerry services could be used to stir political or social instability, had threatened RIM with a ban if it were denied access to data.
A spokeswoman for RIM, which has never commented on whether the Indian government has access to BlackBerry services, was not immediately available for comment.
The Indian interior ministry said on Aug. 30 that the Canadian firm had offered several ways to allow authorities to monitor BlackBerry communications. The government said it would check their feasibility over the next 60 days. [ID:nSGE67T0I0]
Saudi Arabia, fretful over services such as online pornography, has reached a deal with RIM on access to the BlackBerry Messenger instant messaging service, a consumer product that operates outside of the secure corporate domain, according to government sources. [ID:nN10122755]
Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates have raised similar concerns, with the UAE setting an Oct. 11 deadline for RIM.
India had threatened to shut off RIM’s encrypted e-mail and instant messaging services unless it gained access to them, in a campaign driven by fears that unmonitored e-mail and messaging puts the country’s security at risk. [ID:nSGE6800HD]
“They have started giving us access to messenger service from Sept. 1,” the government source said on Tuesday. “Discussions are under way so that we get access to the other service, which is corporate e-mail, so that we can read it in readable format.”
A source had earlier told Reuters the Indian government had been granted access to data effective Sept. 1, but the nature of the access was unclear.
Robert Crow, a vice president at the Canadian maker of the popular BlackBerry phones, met interior secretary Gopal Pillai and other senior officials on Tuesday, the government source said. Crow refused to comment on the nature of discussions after the meeting.
India’s efforts to monitor BlackBerry traffic could have an impact on the shape of India’s mobile phone market, the world’s fastest-growing, and possibly hand gains to Apple Inc (AAPL.O) and Nokia Oyj NOK1V.HE, BlackBerry’s two biggest smartphone rivals in India.
Data sent from non-RIM devices is easier to intercept and only requires the approval of the carrier, whereas RIM says carriers have no access to its encrypted data.
India also wants RIM and other Internet communications providers such as Google Inc (GOOG.O) and Skype to put up local servers and allow full monitoring of traffic. (Writing by Sumeet Chatterjee; Editing by Jui Chakravorty and David Holmes)