The Indian government has agreed that it must work with individual enterprises if it wants access to communications sent via BlackBerry enterprise services, Research in Motion said on Friday.
“The Government has acknowledged that any potential policy or approach that requires lawful access to strongly encrypted enterprise data sent to or from corporate and government organizations … would need to occur through the enterprise customers themselves since RIM has no ability to provide the customers’ encryption keys,” RIM said in a statement.
The comment offers a clue about how RIM might be able to comply with government demands for access to BlackBerry communications while maintaining its reputation for security. Instead of RIM providing governments with access to user data, it appears to put the responsibility on the government to approach individual enterprises for it.
RIM has maintained since the beginning of the dispute that it does not have access to its customers’ encryption keys and therefore cannot provide access to their data. The dispute has put the company in a tricky position. If it doesn’t help the government, it risks having its service blocked. If it does, it risks alienating customers who choose RIM for the strength of its security.
RIM’s comment comes after the Indian government said earlier Friday that it was still unable to monitor communications made through RIM’s enterprise services. It can, however, monitor and intercept voice, short message and e-mail communications among consumers who buy the service directly from the mobile operators.
While the government said it cannot yet monitor communications through the Messenger instant messaging service, RIM said that’s not the case. “RIM confirms that it is fully cooperating with the Government of India and is enabling carriers in India to be able to provide the same degree of lawful access to consumer data services, including BlackBerry Messenger (BBM), that occurs with respect to other consumer products and services offered by other companies including RIM’s competitors,” it said.
Along with its statement, RIM distributed a letter it sent to customers Nov. 19 seeking to reassure them that their services are secure. “RIM does not possess a ‘master key’, nor does any ‘back door’ exist in the system that would allow RIM or any third party to gain unauthorized access to the key or corporate data,” it said.
While it said it was cooperating with the government and having constructive discussions, RIM did not say how it might resolve the dispute.
Nancy Gohring covers mobile phones and cloud computing for The IDG News Service. Follow Nancy on Twitter at @idgnancy. Nancy’s e-mail address is Nancy_Gohring@idg.com