Snooping into mobile communications in India

Research in Motion (RIM), the folks behind the Blackberry, are reportedly close to finalising a deal with India’s Home Ministry to allow it to monitor communications and access customer data.  As Ars Technica notes,

The issue first became public in early March, when the ministry threatened to ban BlackBerry service entirely, unless it was given unconditional access to any and all of the information passing across RIM’s network at any given time, for any given person… The ministry claimed it needs access to customer data in order to protect the country from terrorists operating in Kashmir, who may be using BlackBerrys to communicate with each other.

In 2006 India noted that it was using mobile phones to track insurgents and terrorists in Kashmir. 

“Earlier, we thought it would help terrorists in their communications and help their subversive activities,” army spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel V.K. Batra said. “But it is proving counterproductive to them.”

Two years on the the government now seems to think that the interception of Blackberry communications will help in its struggle against terrorism. There are conflicting reports on the status of negotiations with RIM, with some newspapers suggesting that RIM has agreed to conditionally turn over all customer records and others suggesting that RIM is unwilling to budge on the issue of customer privacy

As the Ars Technica article notes however,

It may be a month or two before Research In Motion announces the details of its agreement with the Union Home Ministry, but the information coming out of India is at least plausible. RIM has yet to state, point-blank, that it will not allow the Indian government to access its network traffic in some form or another, and until that happens, all bets are off. 

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