UAE Bans BlackBerry Email, Web Browsing & Messaging

by Ferman Aziz

The chief of the UAE’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority, Mohammed al-Ghanem has announced that due to serious security concerns, their government has decided to ban email, web browsing and messenger services on BlackBerry smartphones. The official statement by Ghanem says:

In the public interest, we have today informed the providers of telecommunications services in the country of our decision to suspend the Blackberry services of messenger, email and electronic browsing. Today’s decision is based on the fact that, in their current form, certain BlackBerry services allow users to act without any legal accountability, causing judicial, social and national-security concerns. It’s a final decision.

Several countries including Saudi Arabia and India along with the UAE have been in negotiations with RIM for a while now regarding RIM’s method of handling BlackBerry data. All data sent and received on BlackBerry smartphones is encrypted and routed overseas through RIM’s network centre in Canada. This means that governments can not monitor the encrypted data being sent and received if they need to owing to security concerns. The biggest threat is obviously related to law and order and terrorist activities and according to The Wall Street Journal, the ban came after RIM refused to set up a proxy server within the UAE.

All countries currently have to rely on RIM to hand over any data required for criminal investigations which is a hassle and a big hurdle in speedy judicial proceedings. UAE’s Telecom chief rejected the idea that the ban is an attempt at censoring user activities and though the decision is final, they‘re still in discussions with RIM.

It was reported that Saudi Arabia is also following in UAE’s footsteps and is considering banning the same services for BlackBerry users. The biggest market however is India, a country also in conflict with RIM over the issue and it would be interesting to see the outcome of their negotiations with the BlackBerry manufacturers.

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