India and RIM closer to deal on corporate email: report

NEW DELHI/TORONTO (Reuters) - India and Research In Motion have moved closer to agreement on lawful access and monitoring of highly secure corporate email on BlackBerry devices, a newspaper reported on Wednesday, citing an unnamed interior ministry official.

A Blackberry Tour device is shown in use in Hollywood, California November 4, 2010. REUTERS/Fred Prouser

RIM later issued a statement calling the report “inaccurate and misleading” and repeated that it deals with lawful access demands in a consistent manner around the world.

India has threatened to shut off RIM’s encrypted email and instant messaging services unless it gains access to them, in a campaign driven by fears that unmonitored communication puts the country’s security at risk.

The Mint paper said a series of meetings took place last week between RIM executives and officials from the Indian interior ministry and intelligence agency, and more were scheduled.

“They have in principle agreed to provide us recorded data from their servers,” the paper quoted an interior ministry official as saying.

“Now they have assured us that they will discuss the issue first among themselves and find a way to meet our demands. Later, they would be providing live access to BES,” the official told the paper, referring to the BlackBerry Enterprise Server, through which secure corporate email is routed.

In its statement, RIM said its talks with India remain productive and consistent with its four principles for access requests:

- that they be legal

- that BlackBerry is not singled out

- that its enterprise security architecture is not changed

- that any deal is not specific to that country.

Enterprise clients -- corporations and government agencies signed up to the BlackBerry Enterprise Server -- are assigned encryption keys stored only on individual user accounts.

For such users, any data sent from a BlackBerry is scrambled at the source and reconstituted on arrival at the receiving device.

RIM averted a ban in India, the world’s fastest growing mobile market, in August. Late last month New Delhi said RIM had set up an interim arrangement for lawful interception of BlackBerry Messenger services and assured a final solution by the end of January. A government source had said talks continued over access to enterprise emails.

The company also escaped threatened bans in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in October after reaching agreements over access, though RIM hasn’t detailed how it resolved those disputes.

The BlackBerry maker says its system is designed so that only the sponsoring business or organization has the technical capability to grant access to encrypted enterprise email.

Reporting and writing by Alastair Sharp in Toronto and Devidutta Tripathy in New Delhi; Editing by Dhara Ranasinghe and Frank McGurty