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Blackberry issues in the Gulf 2, August 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Qatar, Saudi Arabia, The Emirates.
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After a long, drawn-out process the U.A.E. and Saudi Arabia have announced that they are going to ban Blackberry services. Their key issue is that Blackberry automatically encrypts messages and emails. iPhones and similar devices, however, do not. This means that emails and messages sent from such devices can be relatively easily monitored by security services. The fact that Blackberry makes it impossible for security services to monitor messages and emails perturbs them significantly.

This is a damaging saga for the Emirates in particular. Saudi has never had anything approaching a reputation for openness or as ‘a place to do business’ yet clearly the same cannot be said of the Emirates. Such a visible clamping down on such a ubiquitous tool as Blackberry signals that whilst Dubai, for example, may have something of a licentious, light and non-oppressive air, underneath, there operates a pervasive security force that, at its starkest, cannot countenance not being able to read your emails, if it deems it necessary.

In this light it is interesting to note that Qatar, one of the Emirates’ principal competitors in numerous fields, has announced that it has no plans to ban Blackberry. Moreover, I have seen suggestions that mobile operators in Qatar will seek to expand their service to users in the Emirates. Whilst this is most likely to be simply a rather un-subtle, cheeky jab at the Emirates, it deftly highlights Qatar in a liberal light versus its draconian, ban-imposing neighbor.

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Comments»

1. The slightly less bored Imam - 3, August 2010

First and foremost, glad to have the Gulf Blog back after that drawn out hiatus. Keep up the quality posts.
Though Qatar denies it now, it is easy to picture the government taking action against the Blackberry service in the near future, whether an outright ban like its neighbors or, more likely, demanding access to encrypted e-mails and messages. Despite its veneer of liberalism and openness, the government is still compulsive on national security matters. If it did find sufficient evidence that blackberry correspondences pose a threat, Qatar will inevitably choose national security over PR and international business. It will be interesting to see how convincingly the UAE, KSA and other blackberry fearing countries make their cases against the service. If it proves to be more than paranoid autocracies being paranoid autocracies, it would be hard to imagine Qatar affirming its current stance.

2. F. Kassem - 18, August 2010

Now that KSA has sorted out the issue with RIM through having a server set up in the country and encrypted data can be read, I think the neighbouring countries will do the same whether it is announced in public or not. To be frank, they have the right to do so for security reasons. Many troubles took place because of encrypted messages.


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