BlackBerry crippled in Saudi Arabia and UAE for being too secure

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are moving to block Web browsing, email and BBM on BlackBerry smart phones because they can't be tapped

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have banned key BlackBerry features because the phone is too secure.

The UAE will block email, Web browsing and BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) from October, while Saudi Arabia will stop people using BBM this month, Reuters reports.

The security that's made BlackBerry beloved by businesses is the issue that's causing the Gulf governments grief. Because the phone encrypts email and BBM messages and sends them through RIM's own servers in Canada, rather than the network operator's own servers, there's no way for the government to force the operator to hand over some kinds of conversations made using the phone.

Amid concerns that the countries are cracking down on free speech, TRA, the UAE's telecoms regulator, told Reuters, "Censorship has got nothing to do with this. What we are talking about is suspension due to the lack of compliance with UAE telecommunications regulations."

Saudi Arabia and the UAE aren't alone in wanting to have the occasional peek at our chats -- most governments maintain methods of snooping on mobile phones when investigating crime or national security. Bahrain and France are both reported to have concerns about BlackBerries, but Saudi Arabia and the UAE are the first to block the phone's features.

But other countries could soon follow suit and ban the Berry. India has asked RIM to set up a proxy server within its borders so that its security agencies can monitor messages, Bloomberg reports. It's likely the UAE and Saudi bans are a bid to pressure RIM to agree to a similar setup.

"RIM respects both the regulatory requirements of government and the security and privacy needs of corporations and consumers," said RIM in a statement, in which it refers to itself in the third person like it's the Hoff.

"RIM does not disclose confidential regulatory discussions that take place with any government."

In the meantime, BlackBerries are still being flogged on the Saudi Telecom Web site, Saudi Arabia's state phone company.

 

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