Hot on the heels of giving an ultimatum to RIM over data access to its BlackBerry services, the Indian government has now sought access to Gmail and Skype data, citing security reasons.
WSJ reports that Indian authorities cannot keep a track of these services since they are heavily encrypted. Hence they fear that Gmail and Skype could be easily misused by terrorists and criminals.
Stating this at an industry event, Sachin Pilot, the state union minister for communications and IT said:
There are a whole list of companies that have been asked to give [access]…provide solutions, because law enforcement agencies, the home ministry and intelligence agencies want that information for national security.
However, unlike the RIM case, the Indian government hasn’t sent any specific deadline for the Internet giants to provide access to these services.
Previously, Google had rejected Indian government’s requests to lower its encryption level, stating that it would be impossible for the company to offer real-time access since the Gmail services are governed by US laws. Additionally, it would compromise the privacy of millions of Gmail users worldwide. Vinay Goel, Product Chief, Google India said:
When users entrust their data with us, we are expected to protect it, which is why, user privacy is very important for Google.
We are not advocating non-compliance and are definitely open to offering the Indian government access to encrypted Gmail communication in the event of a large-scale risk to human life and property.
Update: The Hindu reports that Indian security agencies have asked the Telecom Ministry to provide real-time monitoring of social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter in addition to Gmail and Skype mentioned above.
Making it clear that the government will not leave any loopholes which might have adverse effects on the country’s national security, Sachin Pilot stated that the Indian government has already sent notices to Google and Skype regarding this matter and they are currently working with respective companies to figure out a good solution. He said:
Papers were exchanged months ago…the discussions are on and we are looking at finding a solution soon, since it is a matter of national security.