We can think of several items that should be included in the ultimate spy kit, most of them fake, but totally awesome gadgets conceived by Hollywood. Out in the real world, however, it's those pesky BlackBerry devices that hav the United Arab Emirates in a tizzy.
Starting October 11, the UAE will block all BlackBerry email, messaging, and Web services so long as authorities are unable to access the encrypted data. Doing so will effectively hamstring about 500,000 local subscribers and have BlackBerry toting tourists thinking twice about their travel destination.
The reason for the hard stance has to do with concerns over espionage and fear of information sharing. Dubai's police chief, Lt. Gen. Dahi Kahlfan Tamim said the restrictions are also "meant to control false rumors and defamation of public figures due to the absence of surveillance."
The UEA isn't alone here. India has given RIM 60 days to allow authorities to monitor BlackBerry traffic, while Saudi Arabia has concerns of its own, though did allow services to continue last month following "positive developments" in talks with RIM.
Blackberry fanatics out there may be looking to avoid The United Arab Emirates (UAE) come this October. The government of the UAE said last week they would be blocking RIM's Blackberry email, web, SMS, and messenger starting in October. The city-state of Dubai has clarified today that the restrictions will not only apply to the 500,000 local Blackberry subscribers, but to anyone that visits as well. It will not matter if your phone was purchased in another country; the block will be universal.
The UAE has been building at a breakneck pace for the last decade in order to become a hub for business and tourism. This policy seems to fly in the face of that commitment. Blackberry smartphones are widely used in business, and this restriction threatens to make them essentially useless. This is not just a problem for a few business executives; over 100,000 people pass through Dubai's airport each day. At least some of them will be Blackberry owners.
Observers agree that Dubai is attempting to force RIM to make user data available on request. The UAE is referring to this snooping as a "security concern". Should RIM make a deal so people can use their phones, or is the principal more important here?
Things aren't so well between RIM and the United Arab Emirates, with the latter announcing plans to suspend some BlackBerry services starting October 11.
"BlackBerry data is immediately exported offshore, where it is managed by a foreign, commercial organization," the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) of the UAE said in a statement that was published on its website. "BlackBerry data services are currently the only data services operating in the U.A.E. where this is the case."
The U.A.E.'s beef stems from "certain BlackBerry services allowing users to act with any legal accountability, causing judicial, social, and national security concerns." BlackBerry services providing email, Web browsing, instant messaging, and social networking are to be suspended from October 11 until an acceptable solution "can be developed and applied," the U.A.E. said. In the meantime, customers will still be able to use their BlackBerry for voice, SMS, MMS, and other applications.