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Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates to put a ban on BlackBerry

agosto 5, 2010 Technology No Commenti

As we have repeatedly seen lately, often governments love to stick their noses in their citizens’ private lives and businesses, with the all-round pretext of “national security reasons”, such as, for example, screening of phone calls in the quest for a possible terrorist threat. By doing this, they are actually limiting individual liberties, from freedom of expression to freedom of communication.

In this exact direction goes the latest decision made by Saudi Arabia to ban usage of BlackBerry cellphones on its territory. Just like the United Arab Emirates had done a few days ago, imposing a deadline by the middle of October, the Saudi kingdom has ordered connections to be shut down as of tomorrow, August 6.

According to official sources, the ban is due to the fact that the protocol used by these smartphones does not comply with standard in terms of security. In fact, Rim, which produces the BlackBerry technology, is the only one that can directly control its communication network, unlike other mobile phone manufacturers.

BlackBerry users, over a million in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, are afraid that, in order to control their communications, the government will force them to use other mobile phones. Authorities, on the contrary, claim that the protocol would infringe some not specified rules; the governments have requested Rim to make communication data available, but they received a negative reply, because encoding of BlackBerry conversations is made by using a unique encryption key, generated not by the mobile phone operator, but rather by each individual user.

Therefore, Rim would not be able to make its conversations available to any government that should request it. Along with Gulf countries, the anti-BlackBerry league has recently seen the addition of India and Indonesia, although the Indonesian government has stated that they are not against BlackBerry networks, but they just request that data handling be done locally.

Indeed, the governments which placed a ban on encrypted phone calls are fighting terrorist threats, either because cells of groups such as Al Qaeda are hiding in their countries or using them as logistic or financial bases, or because (for example in India) there is a constant threat by extremists of both sides in the disputed regions at the border with Pakistan.

In any case, BlackBerry users and not only are sure that there is much more behind this, and that it has to do not only with prevention of terrorist activities and threats, but most of all with controlling individual freedom of expression, a kind of control that, in theocratic monarchies of the Gulf region, has always been very strict.

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