The Indian security authorities and sundry other "spook" agencies, annoyed that they remain unable to hack into encrypted BlackBerry data transfers or intercept and listen into Skype voice calls, have given both companies two weeks to provide them with the tools that will permit covert surveillance. Failing that their services will be shut down. Martyn Warwick reports.
The ultimatum was issued following a meeting between apparatchiks of the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs, the Intelligence Bureau, the Department of Telecommunications and the National Technical Research Organisation.
A statement reads, "The Department of Telecommunications will call the representatives of Research In Motion and Skype and ask them to ensure that the content going through the telecom service providers is in readable format. They have to ensure that this is implemented within 15 days failing which services that do not allow lawful interception on a real-time basis would be blocked/banned."
The Indian government has also been restricting imports from China (including equipment from the likes of Huawei and ZTE) on the grounds that that they might house embedded spyware.
Perish the thought.
And RIM and Skype are not alone in incurring the wrath of the Indian government. Google too is required to hand over the encryption keys to its Gmail email service or face a similar fate - although this threat does not yet have a deadline.
And, within the Indian telecoms sector itself, both Tata Teleservices and Reliance Communications have been told to ensure that the Internet access services they offer the general public can be monitored by security agencies.
The Indian authorities say that the level of the encryption regime integral to the data card services provided by Reliance and Tata Demonstrations "too sophisticated" and this is making surveillance "difficult if not impossible." The two companies have been told to "relax" the encryption regime and reduce security settings.
So far Google, RIM and Skype have not responded to the fiat, but no doubt thay'll all fall into line over the next couple of weeks.
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