India has begun to wage a war on western technology and Internet companies. The government announced it might block some Research In Motion (RIMM) BlackBerry services unless the Canadian company turns over keys that allow it to encrypt messages sent to and from its devices. The request is similar to one made by Saudi Arabia. RIM agreed earlier this week to make provisions that would help the Saudis track messages that could involve security risks or illegal activities. India has given RIM until Aug. 31 to comply with government requests.
And now India has set its sights on Google and Skype, threatening to curtail the activities of the search giant and huge voice-over-Internet-protocol- (VoIP) service, which has over 500 million users worldwide. According to the Financial Times, "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, according to a government document."
The concerns about Skype and Google are that they may also be used to get access to content that Indian officials do not want accessed, or that Google's communications software and Skype's voice and video services could be used for criminal activities.
The three companies are faced with difficult decisions about whether to alter their services to continue operations in these large markets. Google has already made concessions to the Chinese government. RIM has made concessions to the Saudis. If they make changes, the tech companies stand to alienate customers who expect certain services; if they don't, they risk incurring the wrath of large governments that can shut down their services and cut sales significantly.
Google, Skype, and RIM may be the first companies that face challenges in nations that find their services threats to security. But they will almost certainly not be the last. Other search and cellular product providers are likely to be targeted soon as well.
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