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Google, Skype Next Targets Of India Encryption Crackdown

September 1, 2010

Just days after giving BlackBerry manufacturer Research In Motion (RIM) a 60-day reprieve, government officials in India broadened the scope of their battle against encryption technology, turning their attention to companies such as Google and Skype.

“All people who operate communication services in India should have a server in India,” Home Secretary G.K. Pillai said during a Wednesday press conference, emphasizing the need for telecom companies to work with the country’s security forces in order to combat the possible use of encryption technology by militants to plan terrorist-style attacks.

Nokia has already committed to building a server within India’s borders, and telecom officials in New Delhi have asked RIM to do so as well, according to various media reports. Notices have also been sent to Google, operators of the Gmail service, and Skype, an Internet telephone service, Reuters reporter C.J. Kuncheria said on Wednesday.

“Skype has a similar issue to Blackberry, in so far as it uses a proprietary protocol and no-one knows what is under the hood,” Carsten Casper, research director at analyst firm Gartner, told BBC News on Tuesday.

On Monday, telecom officials met to discuss the future of the BlackBerry, and decided to delay a threatened ban of the device’s email and internet messaging service features for a period of two months. The decision came after RIM “made certain proposals for lawful access by law enforcement agencies,” Ministry of Home Affairs officials said in a press statement.

According to earlier reports by AP Business Writer Erika Kinetz, Indian officials had claimed that they were “not eager to ban the BlackBerry,” but vowed that they would not “compromise on national security.” Several other countries, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates, have expressed concern over security features used by mobile devices, but the Indian government would be the first to act against a telecom company.

“All security concerns (related to BlackBerry) need to be addressed,” Home Minister P. Chidambaram confirmed to French news agency AFP on Tuesday. “Our stand is firm. We look forward to getting access to the data. There is no uncertainty over it.”

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