- Associated Press - Monday, August 30, 2010

MUMBAI, INDIA (AP) - India said it withdrew a threat Monday to ban BlackBerry services for at least two more months after the device’s maker, Research In Motion Ltd., agreed to give security officials “lawful access” to encrypted data.

The Ministry of Home Affairs, which wants real time access to encrypted corporate e-mails and instant messaging, said in a statement it would review RIM’s security proposals over the next 60 days after the Department of Telecommunications studies the feasibility of routing BlackBerry services through a server in India.

It remains unclear precisely what concessions Research In Motion agreed to in order to avert the ban.

About 1 million BlackBerry users would have been affected in India.

“RIM have made certain proposals for lawful access by law enforcement agencies and these would be operationalized immediately. The feasibility of the solutions offered would be assessed thereafter,” the ministry said.

Home Secretary G.K. Pillai met officials from the Department of Telecommunications, the Intelligence Bureau and the National Technical Research Organization _ a cyberintelligence organization _ on Monday to discuss BlackBerry security issues, Home Ministry spokesman Onkar Kedia said.

Research In Motion, a Canadian company, has been reluctant to agree to New Delhi’s demands for real-time access to encrypted corporate e-mail, saying previously it is technically impossible to provide. RIM has also said it is a “misperception” to think server location has any bearing on a government’s ability to access encrypted information.

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

A RIM spokesman in India declined comment.

Developments in India on Monday echo Saudi Arabia’s decision earlier this month to suspend a planned ban. Saudi officials said they had reached a preliminary agreement with RIM to place a server in the country to facilitate monitoring, but it’s unclear whether the reprieve will become permanent.

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 that worry it could be used by militants to avoid detection.

The controversy, which reaches across Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, Lebanon and India, sent Research In Motion’s stock price to a 16-month low Friday.

PricewaterhouseCoopers executive director Sandeep Ladda said it would have been politically difficult for India to ban BlackBerry services Tuesday, given the number of Indian users.

“There could have been a public uproar,” he said. “A lot of negative publicity on the government of India would have come up in the media.”

The decision by Nokia Corp. _ Research In Motion’s major competitor in India _ to install a server in the country to facilitate government monitoring may have weakened RIM’s position. Nokia India Managing Director D. Shivakumar told reporters Monday the company will install a server in India in November to ensure government access to data.

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