RIM has reportedly set up a "BlackBerry Server" in Mumbai to better enable the "lawful access" of email and BBM messages for the Indian Government. Similar to RIM's somewhat contentious issues in Saudi Arabia and Indonesia, the company finds itself caught between companies that want to keep email encrypted and secure and governments that want to examine communications from its citizens. It's a situation that gave ex-co-CEO Mike Lazaridis heartburn and is likely to continue to do the same for new CEO Thorsten Heins for some time.
According to a presentation to India's Union Home Ministry, RIM's new servers have already been inspected by the government. Separately, the same presentation also revealed that the government is tracking the locations and identities of 5,000 RIM BlackBerry Enterprise Servers in India. However, India's Department of Telecom does not consider that corporate email to be of "high concern" for security agencies. It may be that such email is not going to be easily accessible for monitoring, but the government's decision to "obtain [a] list and location of the servers" is likely to give some companies pause.
We reached out to RIM for comment, and the company reiterated that it has, since January of 2011, cooperated with the Indian government to provide "lawful access" to BBM and BlackBerry Internet Service email — in other words, its "consumer messaging services" are available for inspection by the Indian government. RIM also emphasized that it is staying consistent with the four principles of lawful access it laid out in 2010. In other words, it's status quo for RIM and the privacy of BlackBerry communications — but that status is not quite as private as is commonly thought. RIM's "Customer Statement" is below:
Customer Statement - February 21, 2012
Following recent media reports re lawful access, we would like to take this opportunity to comment on RIM's progress with the Government of India and India's wireless carriers regarding lawful access matters. These recent media reports have reiterated RIM's earlier statements that confirmed we delivered a solution in January 2011 to enable India's wireless carriers to address their lawful access requirements for our consumer messaging services, which include BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) and BlackBerry Internet Service (BIS) email. As previously stated, the solution is consistent with RIM's published Lawful Access Principles and it is heartening to see it reported that the Government of India has confirmed and accepted that the lawful access capability available to RIM's carrier partners meets the standard required by the Government of India for all consumer messaging services offered in the Indian marketplace. It is also encouraging to see noted the acknowledgment that BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) software is a secure VPN communication technology that resides in the custody of corporate customers, operating behind the corporate firewalls of those customers.