- Associated Press - Friday, August 27, 2010

MUMBAI, INDIA (AP) - Efforts by Research In Motion Ltd., the maker of the BlackBerry, to broaden the debate over data encryption were dismissed by Indian industry groups as unnecessary Friday and appeared unlikely to break a logjam over government demands for access to users’ e-mails by an Aug. 31 deadline.

India has threatened to cut off BlackBerry services for about 1 million Indian users if RIM does not find a way for security agencies to monitor encrypted data.

RIM's offer late Thursday to lead an industry forum on telecommunications security was widely seen as a last-ditch attempt to broaden the security debate to include other technology companies, such as competitors Nokia and Microsoft, as well as Google and Skype _ which have both been singled out by Indian authorities for potential scrutiny.

RIM is facing widespread concern over its strong data encryption, which is beloved by corporate customers eager to guard secrets but troublesome for some governments in the Middle East and Asia, which worry it could be used by militants to avoid detection.

RIM shares slipped to $45.05 in Friday trading on the Nasdaq stock exchange, down 47 percent from a September high and their lowest since April 2009.

RIM officials met for talks with Indian authorities Thursday, but it remains unclear what solution, if any, they have reached ahead of Tuesday’s deadline.

A top telecom official said Friday he’s hopeful of reaching an agreement but that India will not compromise on national security.

“These concerns have been addressed in other parts of the world, I see no reason why the Indian government and agencies should take any risk at all as far technology is concerned,” Sachin Pilot, minister of state for communications and information technology, told reporters in New Delhi.

Pilot said discussions with RIM are continuing and that he is “hopeful” of finding a solution.

“We are not in the business of shutting down services,” he said.

RIM says it maintains a consistent global standard for data access and does not do special deals with individual countries.

Saudi Arabian officials said this month that they would not ban BlackBerry services after reaching a preliminary agreement with RIM to place a server in the country to facilitate monitoring.

The United Arab Emirates has also threatened a ban, while Indonesia and Lebanon have voiced security concerns.

In India, RIM's offer to lead a security forum revealed tensions between the Canadian company and local players, with one powerful industry group accusing the company of adopting an unhelpful, unilateral approach to negotiations.

“It need not have escalated to this level,” said Rajan Mathews, director general of the Cellular Operators Association of India. “Folks like RIM have to understand business is done differently here.”

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