Saudi Arabia to enact first BlackBerry ban on Friday
With several other countries threatening a BlackBerry ban, the smartphone's parent company stands to lose 2 million of its 46 million users worldwide.
2011 Reflections: Suddenly, a new era in the Middle East
2011 Reflections: the end of a landmark year for Latin America
2011 Reflections: Africa rises, taking charge of its affairs
How the 'Year of the Protester' played out in Europe
In Prague, a tale of communism past
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Government officials in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) say they will shut off BlackBerry e-mail, messaging, and web browsing features on Oct. 11 if the government is not granted more access. Perhaps the greatest concern for the cellphone maker is that India, which constitutes one of the largest emerging markets and has 1 million BlackBerry users, is threatening to stop BlackBerry services as well.
Research in Motion (RIM), the Canada-based maker of the BlackBerry, stands to lose nearly 2 million of its 46 million worldwide customers if the standoff continues over giving foreign governments the ability to monitor communications on the highly encrypted smart phones.
Even with almost 5 percent of its business on the line, however, RIM is unlikely to back off, says Theodore Karasik, director of research and development at Dubai’s Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis.
“RIM is probably not going to budge on the issue, because if they start to make changes to their policy, then it’s susceptible to all policies being changed and manipulated in certain ways,” says Dr. Karasik. “They feel that their customer base is so strong that if they lose a couple of countries, it’s not going to affect them business-wise.”
Will RIM back down?
All of the countries threatening to ban BlackBerry services within their borders contend that the goal is to preserve national security – and that they merely want the same monitoring rights afforded to several Western countries. During the 2008 Mumbai attacks, for example, militants used BlackBerrys to communicate. Authorities in India and elsewhere feel that averting other such attacks in the future is linked to their capability to monitor suspicious communications.
In a statement, the UAE's director general of the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA), Mohammed Nasser Al Ghanim, said that the proposed ban was intended to "preserve the confidentiality of information and correspondence, commercial, official and personal data, and to protect the national economy and companies from any threats."
''First and foremost, this matter relates to the sovereignty of the state on its information as all 'BlackBerry' users from administrators, businessmen, and owners of companies need to keep their data and information within the state to preserve the confidentiality of information," said Mr. Ghanim.