India may put restrictions on Skype and Google

India may ask Google, Skype and other online service providers to allow the country's law enforcement agencies to access communications on their networks, the head of an Internet association said on Friday.

On Thursday the government said it will ask service providers in the country to ensure that some BlackBerry services should be made accessible to its law enforcement agencies by Aug. 31, or face a block of these services.

Rajesh Chharia, president of the Internet Service Providers Association of India (ISPAI), said that at a meeting he attended about a month ago of the country's Department of Telecommunications, it was discussed that other online services besides BlackBerry would also be asked to provide access to India's security agencies.

The Indian government's public threat against BlackBerry is running in parallel with an as yet unannounced decision to pursue similar concerns with Google, Skype and other communications services, The Financial Times said in a report on Friday, citing a government report.

A spokesman for the Department of Telecommunications said he was unaware of the decision.

Google said it had heard nothing from the government.

The Indian government is asking for access to BlackBerry's enterprise server and its instant messaging application.

India wants to intercept mobile and online communications as part of its work against terrorist groups. Security agencies in the country have found that terrorists are increasingly using email, instant messenger, and mobile phones to plan attacks.

Although ISPAI is in favor of self-regulation of the Internet, Chharia said that given the threats India faced, it was reasonable for some of these online services to provide access to law enforcement agencies, under certain conditions. Some of the technology providers tend to take Indian law very lightly, he added.

Under Indian law, service providers have to give law enforcement agencies access to communications on their networks, under certain conditions, including by providing the keys for their decryption.

The government appears to be planning to clamp down on all services that bypass its monitoring system, starting with BlackBerry, Chharia said.

BlackBerry vendor Research in Motion said in a statement on Thursday that it did not want to be singled out by the Indian government.

RIM said that carriers must be technology and vendor neutral and not provide greater access to BlackBerry data compared to other communications companies.

The carriers' capabilities should "be limited to the strict context of lawful access and national security requirements as governed by the country's judicial oversight and rules of law," RIM said. The company maintains a consistent global standard for lawful access that does not include special deals for specific countries, it added.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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