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Published on August 3rd, 2010 | by Babar Bhatti


BlackBerry Runs into Trouble with Governments

The news has been making rounds. BlackBerry services have run into trouble with the gulf state of UAE. In the last year or so, RIM has had to deal with such issues from other countries including Saudi Arabia and India. A Saudi Arabian official said that regulators there ordered telecommunications companies to block BlackBerry IM services later this month. What’s going on?

The main reason is that BlackBerry services are setup in a way where the data encryption and processing happens outside of the control of these governments. Research in Motion, the maker of BlackBerry, usually negotiates service details with governments – but if that does not work, it is not able to provide service. Many analysts believe that eventually there will be compromise.

This is certainly not good news for Research in Motion. Their market share has been sliding and people have complained about the lack of user friendly features such as browsing on its phones. As businesses allow users to choose their own phones, the once solid territory for RIM is slipping away.

Here’s more from WSJ:

It has been reported that email, instant-messaging and Web-browsing services soon will be banned in the United Arab Emirates starting in October. The UAE telecom regulators had a dispute with the device’s maker about how it handles electronic data. The U.A.E. ban is the latest in a string of skirmishes world-wide for RIM as governments try to monitor and control communications. Kuwait, India and China are among countries that reportedly have asked RIM for easier data access as a condition for operating within their borders.

The U.A.E. acted after RIM refused to set up a proxy server in the country as required by its 2007 contract with telecom provider Emirates Telecommunications Corp., a majority of which is owned by the government, according to the person familiar with the situation.

RIM last month offered to allow the government access to the communications of 3,000 of its roughly 500,000 U.A.E.-based BlackBerry clients, including email, text messages and IM communications, the person said. But the U.A.E. declined the offer, the person said.

Last year, RIM notified BlackBerry users in the nation that an application Etisalat had told its clients was a technical upgrade was actually spyware. Users who downloaded the patch had complained of disruption in email and other services. Etisalat subsequently offered directions on disabling the software.

RIM, which has about 46 million subscribers world-wide, is unusual among cellphone makers in that BlackBerrys, which were initially designed for corporate users, come with a high level of security built in. The messages are encrypted on the device before being sent and remain encrypted until they reach their destination. The messages are processed at one of RIM’s Network Operations Centers, the principal one of which is in Canada. The NOCs use proprietary technology, making it difficult for outsiders to hack in.

A senior Indian official last week said BlackBerry’s encryption makes monitoring of its network impossible and creates a security threat. The Indian government, which is negotiating with RIM about the issue, has warned the company that its operations will be closed unless the company addresses the concerns.


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