RIM averts BlackBerry ban in UAE

Regulators in the United Arab Emirates say BlackBerry services now comply with the nation's requirements, adding that RIM cooperated in offering a reasonable fix.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
2 min read

Research In Motion and the United Arab Emirates have reached an agreement to call off a BlackBerry ban that was scheduled to start Monday.

Today's press release (Google Translate version) from the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA), which regulates telecommunications for the UAE, confirmed that all BlackBerry services will continue as usual and not be suspended on October 11.

The agency said that BlackBerry services are now compatible with the UAE's regulatory framework and added that RIM had cooperated in offering a compatible solution. Beyond that, the agency offered no details as far as specific actions or measures that RIM may have taken to avert the ban.

In a response to news of the agreement with the UAE, a RIM spokesperson e-mailed CNET the following statement dated today:

"RIM cannot discuss the details of confidential regulatory matters that occur in specific countries, but RIM confirms that it continues to approach lawful access matters internationally within the framework of core principles that were publicly communicated by RIM on August 12."

A UAE BlackBerry ban would have affected around 500,000 customers in the region and hit both local residents and foreign visitors.

In early August, the UAE announced that it would shut down e-mail, instant messaging, and Web browsing for BlackBerry devices on the October 11 deadline due to RIM's failure to meet the emirates' regulatory requirements. The UAE had been putting pressure on the BlackBerry maker to open up the security on its networks so that local officials could monitor and access customer data for what they see as national security reasons.

RIM had run into similar problems with India and Saudia Arabia, both of which were also demanding access to the corporate data flowing over the company's networks. On its end, the company had insisted from the start that the information on its networks is encrypted and that it does not hold the encryption keys, therefore it can't comply with regulations to make that data available.

With international pressure mounting, RIM fought back at first. At one point, the company's co-CEO Michael Lazaridis said in a Wall Street Journal interview that if these countries can't deal with the Internet, then they should shut it off. More recently, the company's other CEO, Jim Balsillie, suggested that governments that need to monitor BlackBerry corporate data should ask the corporations themselves for access since they're the ones that hold the keys.

But faced with potential bans from multiple countries, RIM was forced to compromise. In August, the company was able to strike agreements with both India and Saudi Arabia to avert their announced bans. The accords reached in those two cases reportedly involved setting up local BlackBerry servers in those countries through which the governments will be able to access their data directly.