News / Middle East

UAE BlackBerry Ban is Latest Clash Over Information Control

The United Arab Emirates has announced that it will block data communication services on BlackBerry smartphones starting on October 11. Regulators say BlackBerry's encryption system poses a security threat because it can be used by criminals and terrorists. The move is the latest conflict between governments and technology companies over the control of information in the Internet age.

Multimedia

Audio

The announcement of a ban on BlackBerry services in the United Arab Emirates is having a chilling effect on sales.

Compu-Me is one of several mobile telephone shops at the Mall of the Emirates in Dubai.  

"I have spoken already to customers here; they are planning [to] shift to iPhones if BBM is closed," said Gilda Ducao, the customer service representative at the store.

The United Arab Emirates announced on Sunday that it will suspend BlackBerry Messenger, or BBM, as well as email and mobile browsing services starting in October.  The government's Telecommunications Regulatory Authority says the services posed a security threat.

Unlike Apple and Nokia smartphones, the data sent over Research in Motion's BlackBerry is encrypted and stored abroad.  Authorities in the UAE say they cannot access information needed for judicial investigations.

Canada-based Research in Motion, or RIM, disputes the UAE's assertion.  The company says it "respects both the regulatory requirements of government and the security and privacy needs of corporations and consumers."

It is not the first dispute between governments and communications firms over the control of information.  Recently, Internet giant Google had to remove its search engine from China, and Pakistan blocked the Internet social networking company Facebook over what authorities called blasphemy.

Ryan Radia is Associate Director of Technology Studies at the Competitive Enterprise Institute in Washington D.C.  He says the difference is that the BlackBerry's reputation is based on its strong data protection.

"So the fact that the UAE is pressuring RIM to essentially create a back door around its encryption, may actually threaten the reputation of BlackBerry as the most secure smartphone platform," he said.

But the UAE's reputation could suffer too.  Dubai, Radia points out, is a major transit point for foreign travelers and an upscale shopping destination in the Middle East.

"The UAE certainly has a lot to lose here," he said. "Whenever a country imposes rules on business that hurts the business that makes it less appealing to consumers, there's a risk that, first of all, the businesses that do operate in the country will suffer.  There's also the risk that foreign businesses will pull out, will disengage."

A Saudi Arabian official has said that BlackBerry's messaging service might be blocked there.  India has also threatened a ban.

Critics say these governments are using concerns about terrorism to increase their political control.

But analyst Ryan Radia says that even if that is the case, governments could still lose because modern technology allows virtually anyone to circumvent the bans and use other encryption methods that are extremely difficult to break.


Jerome Socolovsky

Jerome Socolovsky is the award-winning religion correspondent for the Voice of America, based in Washington. He reports on the rapidly changing faith landscape of the United States, including interfaith issues, secularization and non-affiliation trends and the growth of immigrant congregations.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs