India withdrew its threat to ban Blackberry service after RIM agreed to give officials access to users' data [AFP]

The UN technology chief has said that the Canadian maker of the Blackberry should give governments around the world access to its customer data and should not ignore their legitimate security concerns.

Hamadoun Toure, the secretary-general of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), said that officials fighting terrorism had the right to demand access to users' information from Research in Motion Ltd.

"Those are genuine requests," he told the AP news agency in an interview on Wednesday.

"There is a need for co-operation between governments and the private sector on security issues."

The United Arab Emirates, India and Saudi Arabia have all previously threatened  to cut off Blackberry services unless they get greater access to user information, citing security concerns.

India and Saudi Arabia both withdrew their threats to ban Blackberry service after RIM agreed to address their concerns.

Lebanon, Algeria and Indonesia have all raised similar national security concerns about their lack of access to Blackberry data.

Rights activists' concern

Unlike rivals Nokia and Apple, RIM operates its own network through secure services located in Canada and other countries, such as Britain.

Civil rights activists have argued that the controversy is fuelled by governments' frustration over their inability to eavesdrop on Blackberry-using citizens.

An estimated 2.8 million emails are now sent every second. Experts say governments will simply not be able to track the tidal wave of information flowing around the world. 

The ITU is responsible for co-ordinating the use of the global radio spectrum, promoting international co-operation in assigning satellite orbits, and establishing standards for the telecommunications industry.

The body, based in Geneva, also serves as a global forum for discussion of communications issues.

The agency has no independent regulatory power, but some argue that Toure's comments are a barometer of sentiment among the agency's 192 member states, which are expected to re-elect him to a second term later this year.

Source: Agencies