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September 02, 2010

India to Extend Crackdown On Online Communication Companies

India says it will extend its electronic security crackdown on Blackberry cellular phones to include all online communication companies like Google and Skype. Security concerns have prompted India to demand access to encrypted data transmitted online.   

The first target of India's demand for access to encrypted data was Research in Motion, the Canadian company that makes the Blackberry cellular phone.

Although the government did not carry out a threat to block Blackberry messaging services by August 31st, it has said that its concerns must be addressed within two months.   

India Home Minister P. Chidambaram said Wednesday negotiations are continuing with Research in Motion, or RIM, for access to data transmitted by the Blackberry.  

"RIM has agreed to provide access to some of the communications that are transmitted through the RIM systems, and these have been operationalized with effect from September 1 2010. Discussions on technical solutions for further access are continuing, and the matter will be reviewed within 60 days," said Chidambaram.

Officials say it not just Blackberry's makers who will have to give the government access to their user content, but also other communication services like Google, Skype, MSN Hotmail and Nokia.    

"All people who operate communication services in India should have a server in India, as well as make available access to law enforcement agencies whatever communication passes through the telecommunication network in India and that has been made clear not only to Research and Motion or Blackberry, but also to other companies," said G.K.  Pillai, India's home secretary.  

Placing a server in India allows the government easier access to user content.

India's demands were raised following concerns that terrorist organizations use internet and mobile phone services that security agencies cannot intercept. Security analysts say the terrorists involved in the November 2008 attacks in Mumbai had used mobile and satellite phones to coordinate the raids.

India has been the victim of frequent terror attacks. It is also battling insurgent groups in Kashmir and in the northeast.

India is one of the world's fastest growing telecommunications markets. Blackberry has more than one million users in the country.