Par panel pulls up DoT for delay in resolving BlackBerry issue

A Parliamentary panel has pulled up Department of Telecommunication for delay in resolving the BlackBerry phone issue on concerns that security agencies are unable to get messages transmitted from it in a readable format.
“The (Standing) Committee observe that inspite of the security agencies expressing serious concern over the encrypted data of BlackBerry and its security risks, the Government have not been able to resolve the problem,” it said in a report tabled in Parliament.
Security agencies have expressed concern on highly encrypted communication made through BlackBerry phones and have demanded Research-In-Motion (RIM), maker of BlackBerry phones, to provide them data in readable format.
The Standing Committee on Information Technology headed by Rao Inderjit Singh also noted the government gave extensions to RIM, with the last date being March 31, 2011.
“The Committee express unhappiness over the way extension after extension are being given to resolve such an important issue related to security of the country,” the panel said.
Before the end of its last extension, RIM said its competitors were providing a number of other highly encrypted services in the country and sought to make it an industry issue.
Thereafter, the government formed a committee to come up with mechanism to deal with encryption issues for providing data access to security agencies which is mandatory under the Indian Telegraph Act.
“Constitution of committee for the purpose is another delaying tactics,” the committee said.
Department of Telecom (DoT) informed the panel about the action taken by it and the progress made by the Centre for Development of Telematics (C-DOT) in this regard.
“The Department instead of taking concrete action on the recommendation of the committee simply reproduced the response of C-DOT which only indicates the R&D made by the research organisation in respect of data interception,” the panel said.
It further said that C-DOT in its response has clearly stated that the Government would be in a better position to furnish appropriate response to the Committee’s concern.
Despite that, it said, DoT “did not bother” to note the response of C-DOT and respond aptly to the issue raised by it.
The Panel said DoT has not even indicated the status of the report of the Committee which was looking into all types of encrypted communication and whose report was expected by April 20, 2011.
“This speaks volumes for the casual attitude of the Department towards such an important issue, particularly, when the issue has long been highlighted by the security agencies and raised strongly by the Committee in the report,” the panel said.
The panel has asked DoT to analyse the position internationally in this regard and act upon it appropriately.
“The Committee would again like to emphasis that no compromise can be made when it is the question of the security of the nation”, the report added. (PTI)


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