The Indian government is in talks with companies using Research In Motion's BlackBerry service to gain access to their employees' secure communications, The Wall Street Journal reported today.
In an interview with the newspaper, Home Secretary G.K. Pillai downplayed reports that the Indian government plans to block access to the BlackBerry service if the government's security demands aren't met by the end of January. Pillai said that the January date was more of a target rather than a hard deadline.
RIM has maintained publicly that it doesn't have the ability to provide encryption keys for its BlackBerry enterprise servers. It says those keys are managed by the individual companies that use the service.
Pillai said the government has been working with RIM to come up with a solution. The company has already provided a solution for the BlackBerry Messenger chat service that should be in place by the end of January, Pillai said.
RIM has been working with Indian officials to come up with a solution since August, when the government threatened to shut down the service over security concerns. RIM has faced threats of bans in other countries as well, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. RIM averted a ban in Saudi Arabia by supposedly cutting a deal with Saudi officials, which reportedly also includes putting a server in Saudi Arabia that would allow the security officials to monitor communications.
RIM has been adamant that it has not compromised its core security features. And it says it has not struck special deals with any country. The company says it doesn't have the ability to monitor encrypted corporate e-mail because even though it controls the network of servers that provides the service, it does not have encryption keys to individual companies' e-mail servers.
BlackBerry's tight security has been one of the main reasons that many companies and government agencies use the e-mail service and devices. But governments that say they need to monitor communications to protect against terrorism say that the service is too secure, and they need access to communications from suspected criminals.