The Indian government managed to squeeze out an agreement from RIM a few weeks ago to allow them, like the Saudis and UAEs did, to monitor all Blackberry communication, including and specifically BES traffic, within their country by means of RIM handing out servers for these governments to run themselves which would presumably have all domestic Blackberry BES data routed through them with all the data as visible to them as it would be to a company’s BES administrator. While RIM was putting up a fight about this, they said something along the lines of Well what about Skype and Google?

Well, today the Indian government has set its sights on Skype, Google, Microsoft and Nokia. This is beginning to turn into a free-for-all.

Nokia has already folded, gearing up to give the Indians servers by November 5th. Skype, compared to Google and Microsoft, strikes me as being vulnerable to an ultimatum like this. But Google has demonstrated with the Chinese that not only do they not fold but they can also be the aggressor with large and powerful nations whose demands and apparent hacking attempts to engage in such spying don’t sit well with Google whereas, in that case, Microsoft demonstrated that they’re opportunists or passive beneficiaries more interested in their shareholders than teaming up to take stands on such values.

So if it comes down to an expulsion threat with a deadline to gouge out such a concession from these companies, my money’s on Google standing strong even if that means no longer standing in India.

Doug Simmons

8 COMMENTS

  1. This is bull. America needs to start some kind of financial sanctions on these nations who are obsessed on spying in their citizens. We can begin by bring all tech support back to American soil, no more of this outsourcing nonsense.

  2. indian government needs to chill out!!! I dont know what their problem is!. I am indian and I hate out government sooooo much. I dont think i could ever go and live in india permanently.

  3. Tch Tch Tch…. this is what happens when people far removed from reality try to comment on things they know nothing about. Well, let me try to put things in perspective. India has been a victim of terrorism like no other country in the world. Israel comes a close second, but the sheer size of India and the resultant anti-terrorist efforts are beyond dispute. People in Europe and USA (and even Indians living there) cannot understand the enormity and seriousness of the problem, which is a pity considering 9/11 happened 9 years ago. Or maybe it has already faded from public memory. But anyway, the efforts of Indian govt have to be seen in the backdrop of terrorist threat and the use of modern technology and gadgets. The co-ordinated Mumbai terrorist attacks in November 2008 were hatched, planned, launched and executed with the help of proxy servers, hacked/unsecured WiFi hotspots, Google Earth, GPS, VoIP phones and satellite telephony besides guns and grenades. Hence the insistence of the Indian govt that nefarious elements should not be allowed unfettered use of these modern tools.
    The Indian govt does not require to spy over the citizens and its dealings with RIM, Google, Skype, Nokia or Microsoft are not aimed at that at all. Their purpose is to have the ABILITY to quickly determine the use of internet and communication tools by terrorists and deny them, in real time, the capability to use them with impunity. It is not for some draconian Department of Internal Espionage and Intimidation but for the Intelligence agencies, who find themselves constrained and unable to intercept/block communication channels between parties even after getting inputs. It is not like the alleged policy of the Chinese govt to detect and stiffle dissent. You’ll be surprised at the extent of the freedom of speech and propogation of ideas available to every citizen of India.
    Next, I take exception at the tenor of Doug Simmons article insinuating India as an evil country and painting companies which choose to work with the Indian Govt as weak or oppurtunist entities. The ‘values’ that he talks about are nothing but a misplaced sense of self worth that should, at best be banished in the interest of the common good of people. Doug’s choice of Google as the likely champion of ‘net neutrality’ (LOL) also surprises me in the light of their meek surrender to the Chinese after their efforts at posturing and arm twisting (and even intervention by the US govt) failed. All these companies have the first and foremost responsibilty towards their account books and stakeholders profits(I have no complaints regarding that) and any attempt to suggest that they will place “humanity” above their own interests is a Utopia far removed from reality.

  4. intend: Thanks.. I take pride in my picture pairing

    Salil: I appreciate the insight you threw at this admittedly one-sided piece. My sympathy for India’s problem, I omitted that. I’ve said this before, that this site’s third or second greatest (or maybe tied for first) asset is its extremely eclectic audience made up in part by people who take exception to things including tenor and have the ability, from both background, in this case both having lived in and presently writing from India, and intellect, to put things into perspective, effectively, to those who … well, you get the idea, I like your writing and I appreciate your sharing it with me and the other readers. You put some time into that.

    Please feel very free to use that submission box thing on the sidebar sometime, whether you’ve got just a link, a full piece or a criticism about our general tenor. Another thing you may use it for is to flag us down with willingness on your part to join the team.

    Back to your comment, that the Chinese can hit a big link on google.cn to jump over to Hong Kong where they can see all the pictures of tankman they want, using the last time I checked almost all of Google’s services, without their government clamping down on either the Great Firewall’s portal to Hong Kong’s Google or clamping down on Hong Kong itself, which it did reserve a right to do in matters of diplomatic matters, that’s a victory in my book. For everyone involved.

    As for this net neutrality hoopla, Google’s a big company, coming up with new things left and right, working to make existing things better. They’ve got a lot of people working for them and they’re maybe more fired up than, say, Intel about working hard and excitedly and when you’ve got something like that you get the occasional slip up, this being one of them — or their initial position of being in opposition to such activity, something they’ve championed publicly and even before Congress, that was the slip up. Honestly the whole thing has tl;dr all over it for me and right now I’m just looking, whoever may be right or wrong about this mess, to see who’s got the bigger stones here — Google or Microsoft, or maybe even the Indian government if Google puts up a big enough fight and the citizens don’t share your perspective and if other governments put some political heat on them. If India manages to squeeze this access out of any foreign company they name it’s much easier to picture many more governments lining up with the same demands whether they have as terrible a problem as India to make them want that access or not. And that bothers me.

    Salil, I’ve got thirty bucks that says Google will continue to operate, one way or another, in India, fully, without handing (or agreeing to hand) over the keys to their costumers’ privacy as RIM and now Nokia has done by the end of the year. Care to make this interesting?

  5. Doug : Thanks for the kind words. Fortunately, I’m totally ignorant about the wheeling-dealings in corporate board rooms and back channel diplomacy by govts, which makes me an unlikely candidate for accepting your wager (Hahaha, more on this later), but I can certainly try to reason about the futility of a stand-off in the instant case between political sovereigns (India) and technological bigwigs (Microsoft) as also techno-political heavyweights (Google). But first a word about the ‘Right to Corporate Judgement’. It is perfectly logical, understandable and justifiable for a corporate to take decisions and make policies to protect their financial bottomline and even a change in such policies in changed times is acceptable. Indeed, all corporates do that – thats what the Board of Directors is meant for. The problem arises when some of the ‘heavyweights’ adopt a holier-than-thou pretense and try to pass off their economic decisions as ‘we’re-fighting-for-the-rights-of-the-common-man’ approach. Such corporates are best advised to stir clear of the temptation to play God of the Universe (that could be a nice title for a video game featuring you-know-who). Now, about the standoff in India…

    1. First we should agree on the legitimacy of the Indian demand and appreciate their genuine concerns without dimissing it offhand. The insistence is for ‘legal access’ and not across-the-board handing over of keys. Why should anyone object to a perfectly legal requirement that will potentially save human lives? Are you saying that Google would want to operate in India with blood on their hands?

    2. I share your concern about many more countries lining up with similar demands and that there cannot be any mechanism to determine if the need of one country is greater than the other. The cost of human life is the same everywhere, irrespective of what some zealots may think. Hence it is an issue on which countries and technology pundits should put their heads together and find a solution for the common good of everyone. Confrontation will do nothing but hit everyone’s bottomline, whether financial, social, political or human.

    3. The approach of the Indian govt in the issue has been clear and justifiable from the beginning. They first approached RIM with the problem, explained their concerns and asked RIM to provide a technological solution. It was only when RIM expressed their inability to do so and even missed scheduled meetings with the authorities that the govt had to ask service providers to prepare for suspending Blackberry services. While this episode is behind us, what is the prudence behind repeating it?

    4. I also fail to see the wisdom behind Asterix and Obelix comparing the size of their menhirs while India is trying to limit the cost humanity has to pay at the hands of terrorism. They should rather Get-a-Fix…. quickly.

    5. “When in Rome, do as Romans do” is an adage from yesteryears, but equally relevant today. If Microsoft, Google, Nokia and Skype want to do business in India and profit from their venture, why shouldn’t they respect local traditions, share local concerns and follow local laws? Microsoft and Google have large scale operations in India and are no strangers to the ethno-social cauldron that is India. If they still try to equate the view from the corner office in Mountain View to the view from Mount Everest, it will only smack of insensitivity, nepotism, discrimination and a misplaced sense of self-worth (to use one of my favourite phrases).

    This isn’t a game to show who is bigger and who will win in the end. In all probabibility, everyone will win just like in China. About your wager, Doug, I’d also go with you that Google will continue without handing over the keys. But that’ll be because the Indian Govt does not want the keys. It just wants local access so that they can utilise it when they need it (and which will act as a deterrent for potential wrongdoers). I’d rather put twenty on Microsoft engaging the Indian Govt proactively to find a solution and Google creating a brauhaha before folding with dignity when they’ve derived sufficient political mileage out of it.

    Thanks for the offer, btw. I’ll certainly think about it when I’ve found a way to extract more spare time from my current occupation. :-)

    P.S. – I found this interesting and insightful article on WSJ about “The Indian Connection” – http://online.wsj.com/article/SB126239086161213013.html#articleTabs%3Darticle

    P.P.S. – In other, unrelated news – Google agrees to pay $8.5 million to make Buzz privacy suits go away – http://www.engadget.com/2010/09/04/google-agrees-to-pay-8-5-million-to-make-buzz-privacy-lawsuits/

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