Besieged RIM Throws India a Bone

With the clock ticking and the continued service of a million BlackBerry users in India at stake, Research In Motion has made a play to delay the shutdown of its services on the subcontinent on August 31. It has offered to lead an industry forum to work up solutions that will balance the security concerns of the Indian government with the privacy needs of users of RIM's BlackBerry smartphone in its country.

Whether it's called a forum, special commission or study group, its purpose is the same. It's designed to delay action on a volatile issue. If India agreed to RIM's proposal, there'll be plenty of time wasted deciding who will be on the panel besides RIM, what the scope of their work will be and then there will be a multitude of meetings leading up to a final report. That could take months. Meanwhile, RIM could be working on ways to make moot whatever the forum cooks up for recommendations.

RIM has already begun devising ways to appease Indian authorities. On September 1 it will begin giving the country's security agencies access to BlackBerry messages on a per-request basis. A more automated solution to tracking messages is expected to be in place by November, and the company is also working on a way to open up corporate email to police peepers.

Meanwhile the company keeps trying to straddle both sides of the fence dividing appeasing government snoops and protecting the privacy of its customers which, ironically, include government agencies around the world attracted to the service for its security.

"Finding the right balance to address both regulatory and commercial needs in this matter is an ongoing process and RIM has assured the Government of India of its continued support and respect for India's legal and national security requirements," the company said in a statement.

"The use of strong encryption in wireless technology is not unique to the BlackBerry platform," it added. "It is unquestionably an industry-wide matter. Banning such strong encryption-based information and communications services would severely limit the effectiveness and productivity of India's corporations."

To balance those competing and oftentimes conflicting interests may take the wisdom of Solomon. The last time we checked, though, he wasn't available to be a member of the proposed forum.

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