No, Google Won’t Share Gmail’s Encryption Keys With Indian Government
By on December 16th, 2010

What is this Gmail encryption key which the Indian government want’s so badly? I hear you say.

You might remember that in August 2010, the Indian Government literally forced RIM to   allow access to its encrypted email and messenger data to the Indian security agencies. RIM agreed in setting up local servers in India to manage the encrypted email data of its Indian users.

Same drill with the renowned mobile manufacturing company -Blackberry. The company was allotted the deadline of August 31,2010.

But when it comes to Google and Gmail – the issue gets bigger. And more serious.

A Google executive has made it clear to security officials of Indian Government that under no circumstances, the company will share the encryption key of it’s email service with Indian security officials, reports TOI.

Google India products chief Vinay Goel said that the company can’t help the Indian government with the encryption keys for two reasons.

First and foremost, the Gmail service is governed by U.S laws and it’s impossible to offer real time access of Gmail to any Government official. The second reason is of course the privacy of Gmail users, sharing the keys might lead in compromising the privacy of Gmail users in India

In Mr Goel’s own words:

When users entrust their data with us, we are expected to protect it, which is why, user privacy is very important for Google. The Union home ministry or telecom ministry has not asked Google to share the encryption keys for Gmail, but even if the US based internet search engine giant received such a request, it will be impossible to offer real-time access to Gmail communication.

Mr Vinay Goel added -”Google is open to offering access only if there is a large scale risk to human life or property“.

But this might be unacceptable to the Indian Government because such a situation isn’t going to knock your door a week ago so that the security experts can contact Google authorities saying -” Hey ! Give us those encryption keys right now or else, our websites and email accounts are at risk.”

I am no law expert but India’s Information Technology (Amendment) Act 2008, gives the necessary authority to India’s security agencies such that they can demand that service providers provide the decryption keys available to them, when required.

Could this be because of the recent hack attacks on Indian Government websites ? That some crazy Indian group hacked three dozen Government’s websites of Pakistan ?

Will the Indian government ban Gmail (like they threatened Blackberry and RIM), if Google does not comply with India’s cyber laws and specifications?

Lot’s of questions and speculations. We will have to wait and see what happens in the coming days.

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Author: Amit Banerjee Google Profile for Amit Banerjee
Amit has been writing for Techie Buzz since early 2009 and keeps a close eye on web apps, Google and all things Tech. He also writes at his own tech blog, Ampercent. Follow him on Twitter @ amit_banerjee

Amit Banerjee has written and can be contacted at amit@techie-buzz.com.

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