BlackBerry, a security threat

Written by Anandita Singh Mankotia | Vrishti Beniwal | Rishi Raj | New Delhi, Mar 7 | Updated: Mar 8 2008, 05:22am hrs
The popular BlackBerry email service offered by the top three mobile operators Bharti Airtel, Reliance Communications and Vodafone Essarfaces the threat of being deemed illegal by the home ministry. Developed and marketed worldwide by Canadian firm Research In Motion (RIM), the BlackBerry service gives users access to e-mail through push technology on their mobile phones.

According to industry sources, the home ministry has insisted that such services be allowed only if they can be lawfully intercepted. In other words, the government should be able to tap the communication on grounds of security. Currently, communication through the BlackBerry service cannot be lawfully intercepted.

The matter came to light recently after Tata Teleservices Ltd (TTSL) sought permission to offer BlackBerry services. The companys application to DoT was forwarded to the home ministry, which turned it down. We have been told that the BlackBerry service does not have (scope for) lawful interception, maybe because it does not have a server in India, said TTSL MD Anil Sardana.

We are surprised that whereas other operators offer this service, we have not been allowed to do so, Sardana added.

Industry sources said that earlier no such prior permission was required. Moreover, operators say that the BlackBerry service simply reformats mobile data, which can be lawfully intercepted anyway. RIM is in talks with the government over the issue.