DoT directive restricts 'certain' Blackberry services

New Delhi: The department of telecom has asked telecom operators to disable certain features offerred by Canadian company Research In Motion (RIM)'s Blackberry services, until such time that monitoring systems are put in place.

These restrictions are the latest saga in the unfolding story of security agencies having raised concerns against BlackBerry usage, saying that it posed a significant risk to national security as email sent from Blackberry devices could not be traced or intercepted.

In a written reply to the Parliament, minister of state for communications and information technology, Jyotiraditya Scindia said that instructions have been issued to all mobile service providers asking them not to connect or provide certain BlackBerry services, unless the required monitoring systems are in place.

The department of telecom has held meetings with mobile companies and Blackberry vendor RIM, along with other stake holders and security agencies to resolve the issue.

Though the exact nature of the partial ban is still unknown, industry sources indicated that e-mails sent from one Blackberry to another Blackberry may be barred, as they were the ones that were routed through Blackberry's servers hosted in Canada, and could not be legally intercepted or decrypted. Other messages that traversed over the internet, on the other hand, could be, and would most likely continue.

The government has asked Research in Motion (RIM) to either share its decryption code, or route calls and emails sent via Blackberry through servers that are hosted in India, so that security agencies can intercept these messages. RIM officials were reported to have sought time till the end of this month to explain their position.  BlackBerry services are offered in India by Airtel, Reliance Communications, Vodafone Essar and BPL Mobile, together servicing an estimated customer base of around half a million.

The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) has said that it would abide by the government's decision.