04 August 2010 | 15,571 views

UAE (Dubai) & Saudi Arabia To Ban BlackBerry Services With India To Follow

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Well there’s been a lot of news these past few days so it was pretty tough to choose what to cover today, anyway I chose this story as it interests me and could be a real problem for RIM the makers of the popular (and fastest growing) BlackBerry smart-phone device.

The latest news is due to the fact that many of the BlackBerry services such as BBM (BlackBerry Messenger) run on a proprietary network BIS (BlackBerry Internet Services) they fall foul of wiretapping laws which require that governments have access to all communications if so required.

We did cover a story a while back about UAE Telco Etisalat Installing Spyware On Users Blackberries, perhaps that was their first step to mitigate against the communications via BlackBerry devices that rendered them untraceable.

The United Arab Emirates outlined plans Sunday to block BlackBerry e-mail, messaging and Web browsing services in a crackdown that could jeopardize efforts to establish the country as an international business hub.

The government cited a potential security threat because encrypted data sent on the devices is moved abroad, where it cannot be monitored for illegal activity. But the decision — quickly followed by a similar move in Saudi Arabia — raises questions about whether the conservative Gulf nations are trying to further control content they deem politically or morally objectionable.

BlackBerry phones have a strong following in the region, not only among foreign professionals in commercial centers such as Dubai and Abu Dhabi, but also among youth who see their relatively secure communication channels as a way to avoid unwanted government attention.

“The authorities have used a variety of arguments, like it can be used by terrorists” to justify the crackdown, said Christopher Davidson, a professor at the University of Durham in Britain, who has written extensively about the region. “Yes that’s true, but it can also be used by civil society campaigners and activists.”

The United States said they are ‘disappointed‘ with this decision, but with them rejecting Huawei’s take-over bids for US companies citing ‘national security threats’ I don’t think they have much to be disappointed about.

I think from a government perspective it’s a fair request, but then for all the countries where privacy advocacy is rife – putting a government approved backdoor in the BlackBerry OS might be a VERY bad idea. Then you have the whole headache of multiple OS versions for different countries with different levels of wiretapping ability.

The UAE’s decision will prevent hundreds of thousands of BlackBerry users from accessing e-mail and the Web on their handsets starting in October. It’s unclear whether the ban will extend to foreign visitors with roaming services, including the roughly 100,000 passengers who pass through the region’s busiest airport in Dubai each day.

The ban risks further damaging the UAE’s reputation as a relatively easy place to do business.

Dubai, one of seven hereditary sheikdoms in the federation, in particular has sought to turn itself into a global finance, trade and tourism hub. But its reputation has been tarnished by a credit crisis that has left the emirate more than $100 billion in debt.

Residents say the BlackBerry crackdown will only do more harm, making foreign businesses think twice before setting up shop in the country.

“They’ll think now they’ve banned the BlackBerry, maybe next time it’ll be the Internet,” said Shakir Mahmood, a Dubai-based debt collector and BlackBerry user originally from Iraq.

This isn’t the first time BlackBerry and Emirati officials have had run-ins over security and the popular handsets, a fixture in professionals’ pockets and purses the world over.

Last year, BlackBerry maker Research in Motion Ltd. criticized a directive by the UAE state-owned mobile operator Etisalat telling the company’s BlackBerry users to install software described as an “upgrade” required for “service enhancements.”

The latest addition to this is India joining the party, again citing regulatory concerns regarding the proprietary BlackBerry services.

They all have to consider how this will effect International business relations as most of the business World is already utilising BIS or BES (BlackBerry Enterprise Services) although perhaps these restrictions will only apply to BIS and not private enterprise connections – although that hasn’t been made clear yet.

Anyway I have a feeling we’ll be seeing more coverage on this and possibly more countries joining the cause like the recent Google Wi-fi scanning fiasco.

Source: Yahoo! News



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