What's behind the Saudi and UAE move to ban Blackberry?
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Saudi Arabia has announced that it will join the UAE and ban use of Blackberry data and messaging services. Both countries claim the move is due to security fears, but the ban highlights the tension between digital security and privacy.
Walk down the street of any major international business centre and the signs of Blackberry’s popularity are everywhere.
Hurried business executives furiously type on its tiny keyboard while others pass by with the device attached to their belt, and its distinctive “bzzz bzzzzz” vibrating sound seem to permanently hover in the air.
Few of these users rely on Blackberry for entertainment or think it makes a fashion statement, such as Apple’s hugely popular iPhone. Instead, Blackberry users regard is as a vital utility device elegantly designed to send and receive secure email and other text messages. The combination of its simplicity (it is one of the few gadgets with a real keyboard after all) and the security that comes with encrypted communications underlie the foundation of Blackberry’s popularity. Now it appears, that success may also become the company’s biggest liability.
Open vs closed networks
Blackberry Around the World
UAE: Suspension of BBM, web and email from October 11, 2010, according to TRA.
India: Threat of suspension; in talks with RIM.
Pakistan: Temporarily blocked along with Facebook and Twitter after controversial cartoons released.
China: Reports of RIM hosting a server in the country.
Kuwait: Threat of suspension because BBM used to "spread rumours"
Saudi Arabia: Apparently asked RIM for permission to intercept messages
Bahrain: First legal action against BBM users
One example that has been commonly used to highlight this issue was the January 2010 assassination of a Hamas leader in Dubai allegedly by Israeli agents. The fact that the killing occurred in Dubai and without detection by the UAE's security services came as a real shock for the government in Abu Dhabi. In fact, the incident so infuriated UAE officials that it is widely credited with prompting the current drive for increased electronic surveillance and security.