16 Dec, 2010, 04.15AM IST, Kalyan Parbat,ET Bureau
Google won’t share encryption keys with Indian sleuths
KOLKATA: Google Inc will not share the encryption keys of its email service with Indian security agencies as it would compromise the privacy rights of millions of Gmail users worldwide, a top company executive said.
The Union home ministry, intelligence agencies and the telecom department are collectively exploring mandatory sharing of software by all communication service companies in India, a sensitive issue with global firms. Some firms have already been asked to comply and Canada’s Research In Motion ( RIM )) is edging closer to January 31, 2011, deadline to hand over the encryption keys for its popular BlackBerry messaging services to intelligence agencies.
Google India products chief Vinay Goel said even if the Indian government requested, it would be impossible to offer real-time access since the Gmail service is governed by US laws. ‘When users entrust their data with us, we are expected to protect it, which is why, user privacy is very important for Google,’ he said.
The Union home ministry or telecom ministry has not asked Google to share the encryption keys for Gmail, but even if the USbased internet search engine giant received such a request, it will be impossible to offer real-time access to Gmail communication, Goel said.
‘But 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,’ he said. Indian authorities are seeking control over communication systems for internal security as intelligence agencies do not have the technical resources to intercept communication services and data transfers on the internet, especially when encryption levels exceed a certain threshold.
The government had two years ago asked all internet service providers in the country to lower encryption levels to better monitor communication systems in the country. Services on low encryption levels are to blame for country’s dismal internet penetration, say internet experts.