BlackBerry Identified as Perfect Spy Tool in UAE

By Susan J. Campbell September 03, 2010

Research In Motion (RIM) – the BlackBerry maker – has been hitting walls overseas. The company has been battling regulations in India as the government there wants access to encrypted corporate e-mails and other messages sent using the BlackBerry device. Robust security is one of the BlackBerry’s best features, yet it seems to be hurting in this market. 

A recent Associated Press report isn’t helping things look up for the smartphone maker. It appears the United Arab Emirates is worried about spying by the U.S. and Israel and believes the BlackBerry will serve as a great tool in these efforts.

As a result, the government there is reportedly planning to limit BlackBerry services. The UAE has said it will begin blocking BlackBerry e-mail, messaging and Web services on October 11 unless authorities are able to gain access to the encrypted data traffic. This is the same demand put forth by the Indian government. If this block happens, it will affect roughly 500,000 local subscribers in UAE, while it could also tarnish the country’s reputation as the hub for Gulf business and tourism.

Potentially millions of visitors could be left without key BlackBerry services.

At the same time, foreign users may not want the government there to intercept their messages, either. Dahi Khalfan Tamim, Dubai’s police chief, noted that there are legitimate fears of espionage and information sharing by Israel –UAE’s main foe – and allies, the United States and Britain. T

hese fears prompted the possible limits on the BlackBerry device. Tamin’s remarks are considered to reflect those of the leadership in the country.

Tamim told a group attending a conference on information technology that the proposed BlackBerry curbs are also "meant to control false rumors and defamation of public figures due to the absence of surveillance," according to a story posted Friday on the website of the UAE newspaper Al-Khaleej.

Reports surrounding the situation reveal that UAE officials are still in talks with RIM, although comments by Tamim point to what could eventually become a stalemate. RIM has already claimed that it is impossible to provide access to encrypted information.

This core competitive advantage may be the very thing that brings them down in such situations. RIM received an extension from India on its demands for access.

The Canadian-based company isn’t discussing its interactions with any governments, making it difficult to speculate exactly how this will play out in the next couple of months.

Susan J. Campbell is a contributing editor for TechZone360 and has also written for To read more of Susan’s articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

TechZone360 Contributing Editor

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