On Sunday, August 1st, the United Arab Emirates announced that BlackBerry service will be banned for security purposes as of October 11th. That means no BlackBerry messenger, e-mail, or Web browsing anymore.
This will not only affect those living in the UAE but also those that visit the country, even if their BlackBerry was issued in another country. The devices will still be able to be used for phone call purposes, but that’s about it.
The authorities say that the new ban is for security concerns. BlackBerry data is shipped to company computers that are abroad, so this makes it extremely difficult for local authorities to monitor and control any illegal activity or abuse.
Many people are very critical of this new ban. Some feel that it is simply a way for the country’s conservative government to control any content that they might consider politically or morally offensive. The UAE government officials says that there are BlackBerry features that are “causing judicial, social, and national security concerns.”
Maisoon al-Iskandarani, an Emirati BlackBerry user working at an international bank in Dubai, says, "I think it's a very big step back. All developed countries in the world have it. Why should we not? How are you going to stay in touch with your clients and colleagues?"
The country’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) director General Mohamed Al Ghanim says, "With no solution available and in the public interest, in order to affect resolution of this issue, as of October 11, 2010, Blackberry Messenger, Blackberry Email and Blackberry Web-browsing services will be suspended until an acceptable solution can be developed and applied.”
P.J. Crowley, a U.S. State Department spokesman, said that such bans are "a move in the wrong direction." He states, "We're going to clarify with the UAE what's behind this announcement, but we think it sets a dangerous precedent. It is our view that you should be opening up societies to these new technologies that have the opportunity to empower people.”
Reporters Without Borders, a press-freedom group based in Paris, has urged the UAE to lift the bans and come to a compromise "that does not limit the freedom of the Emirati population,” but I don’t think that the UAE is going to consider another option right now.
Research in Motion (RIM), the Canada-based company in charge of exporting and managing overseas BlackBerry data services, defends their security policies. They released a statement stating, "RIM operates in over 175 countries today and provides a security architecture that is widely accepted by security conscious customers and governments around the world. RIM respects both the regulatory requirements of government and the security and privacy needs of corporations and consumers. RIM does not disclose confidential regulatory discussions that take place with any government however RIM assures its customers that it is committed to continue delivering highly secure and innovative products that satisfy the needs of both customers and governments."
Obviously despite all of this, the UAE remains unconvinced. Until they can come up with a satisfactory solution to their concerns about BlackBerry services, those living in or traveling to the UAE will just have live with out BlackBerry services. As annoying as this may be, it’s not the end of the world. I think people are more concerned about the principles of the matter. If the UAE feels they can take away things like BlackBerry service because of security issues, what else might they feel needs to be banned in the name of “security?”
Cell phones and all of their features and services are becoming a part of every day life for almost everyone. Read all about how landlines are quickly becoming obsolete.
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