BlackBerry Strikes Possible Deal With Saudi Arabia to Avert Ban
August 8, 2010
(ChattahBox)—The BlackBerry is under assault by a number of Gulf nations, at odds with the smartphone’s highly-encrypted data services that prevents government spying of email and text messages. The United Arab Emirates announced a ban of BlackBerry’s data services, starting in October. And Saudi Arabia recently followed suit, barring BlackBerry use on Friday. But the service is reportedly still in operation in Saudi Arabia, and BlackBerry’s maker, Research in Motion’s (RIM) is apparently in negotiations with the Saudi government to allow monitoring of the device, to satisfy security concerns.
According to a report by Bloomberg, the Saudi government is reviewing a proposal submitted by RIM that would permit some level of monitoring of user data, by using a server inside Saudi Arabia, rather than RIM’s proprietary server that offers encrypted messaging:
‘“Appropriate action on whether to suspend the service” will be taken after the proposed solution is shown to comply with regulatory requirements, the state-run Saudi Press Agency cited a statement from the Saudi telecommunications regulator as saying. Saudi Arabia has said it wants to monitor BlackBerry messages to prevent terrorism and illegal activities.”
“The Saudi situation is being closely watched because it’s one of a growing number of countries in which RIM, based in Waterloo, Ontario, faces scrutiny over its BlackBerry e-mail and messaging services. The United Arab Emirates, India and Indonesia have also expressed concern that such mobile communications could be used to violate laws or national mores.”
Satchit Gayakwad, RIM’s India spokesman, said last week in response to the Saudi ban, “We won’t compromise on the security architecture of our corporate e-mails.” “We respect the requirements of regulatory bodies in terms of security, but we also look at the customer’s need for privacy,” he said.
Gayakwad added that RIM cooperated with all governments “with a consistent standard and the same degree of respect.”
It’s unclear what particular accommodation RIM offered the Saudis, and if the same deal has been made available to other governments.