“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,” stated Mohammed al-Ghanem, the chief of the UAE’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority.
“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,” continued the government’s statement. According to al-Ghanem, “It’s a final decision,” but they are continuing discussions with Canadian-based Research in Motion (RIM), makers of the BlackBerry device.
At the heart of the ban is the method in which RIM handles BlackBerry data. Unlike most phones, BlackBerry data is encrypted and routed overseas through RIM’s network center in Canada. This has been a major point of contention for several nations, including the UAE, Saudi Arabia and India, because it means that these nations cannot monitor the encrypted data being sent. According to The Wall Street Journal, the ban came after RIM rejected the idea of setting up a proxy server within the UAE.
Much of the issue seems to surround the issues of crime and terrorism. Without the ability to monitor data, the UAE would have to rely on RIM to hand over data for criminal investigations. Some also believe the move is meant to give the UAE stronger control over the nation’s information flow, although the UAE’s telecom chief said that censorship played no part in the decision.
Within hours of the announcement, Saudi Arabian telecoms and a government official said that the Arab nation would be banning the BlackBerry Messenger feature. While both Saudi Arabia and the UAE are relatively small markets for RIM, the ban could be a catalyst for action by India, which is also in a dispute with the BlackBerry maker over how it handles data.
We have reached out to RIM for comment. In the meantime, we want to hear your opinion: is the UAE’s ban of BlackBerry services justified? Let us know your opinion in the comments.