PhonePersonal privacy suffered a huge blow on foreign soil earlier last week as Research in Motion, the Canadian-based manufacturer of BlackBerry communication devices, caved in response to the Indian government’s demand for access to encrypted information on the devices. Without such access, Indian officials claimed they would ban the use of BlackBerrys all together. Research in Motion received a small consolation prize: India pushed back its August 31 deadline for the company to provide such access, giving it an extra sixty days to come up with an appropriate solution. The exact terms of the Research in Motion concession are unknown, however it is at least clear that the company has promised to provide the Indian government with “lawful access” to encrypted data on Blackberry Devices. As one rationale for demanding such access, the Indian government has cited its concern over terrorists using the encrypted technology to plot terrorist attacks.

Why did Research in Motion give in to such a “1984-esque” demand, one might ask? Although there are plenty of hypotheses being tossed around the Internet as we speak, it is most likely India’s market share that caused the company’s ultimate concession. Research in Motion has well over one million BlackBerry users in India, making it one of the fastest growing markets for their product on Earth.

Over the next sixty days, it will be interesting to watch the aftermath of such a large concession by a mobile device maker. The ramifications for other countries who follow suit and equally threaten to discontinue BlackBerry service if their governments are not provided with encrypted data may not be the stuff of science fiction anymore.

Lauren Sibyl Bair

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