The Telecom Regulatory Authority of UAE today announced that they are looking to ban all blackberry services from the 11th of October. The services include BlackBerry Messenger, BlackBerry Mail and BlackBerry Web browsing services. It is strange to think that a country that is positioning itself to be the financial and cultural hub of the middle east should take up a stand of this nature. It has been issued as a warning earlier from the TRA that the suspension is a result of the failure of ongoing attempts, dating back to 2007, to bring BlackBerry services in the UAE in line with UAE telecommunications regulations. The TRA said that it was working with Research in Motion (RIM), the maker of the BlackBerry smartphones, to resolve “serious social, judicial and national security” issues with the popular devices.
Thinking about Serious Social, Judicial and National Security issues, well I think its a bit far fetched that the service provided by RIM would be a threat. To be honest, well there might be a misuse of the service by some people, but having said that there are a million, gazillion other forms of communication available online and most of those as well, the data is placed outside the U.A.E. Apparently its not just the U.A.E.
What is really disturbing though is the fact that there had been a really amazing push from all the electronics stores as well as the two major telecom players in the market Etisalat and Du, to push the Blackberry in the last few months. Luring customers with slashed prices as well as great offers on data plans, the blackberry was everywhere. As a person who just bought the blackberry I would feel rather cheated. Its unlikely that one government organization did not mention this scheme to the other organization months before they would consider this. And if this is the case, then well I think we have been royally cheated.
Following on the heels of U.A.E, the Saudi government has also asked its regulators to ban the services of Blackberry, within the country. Add to it the warnings given to the company RIM from the Indian TRA as well, to reduce the security such that they can monitor the traffic on the BBM especially. The Black Berry messenger was not only the flagship of the manufacturer, but also one of the highest selling points of the device. Having to be able to communicate without paying for the test messaging or the MMS transfers, this was THE USP of the device.
It would be strange for all those owners who are by now used to conference chats, as well as sending and receiving latest updates from their friends will definitely feel the pinch.
India has given internet telephony pioneer Skype and the makers of BlackBerry handsets a deadline to fall into line with strict security-monitoring regulations or be blocked, a report said earlier this month. India’s intelligence officials have long complained that they are unable to decipher encrypted data sent on BlackBerry handsets. The government has threatened to ban or block BlackBerry and Skype services if the companies fail to adhere to a 15-day deadline to make data available in formats that can be monitored, the Economic Times newspaper said.
Like they say in the battle between national security and privacy, national security always wins. And this seems to be the main cause for these organizations to ban the device. However, is it a right decision ? In the mean time here is a small list of the countries trying to impose the ban.
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.