Saudi Arabia, RIM agree on BlackBerry use, US says

US to enquire about particulars on agreement and if it can offer assistance.
Saudi Arabia, RIM agree on BlackBerry use, US says
AGREEMENT REACHED: Saudi Arabias government has reportedly reached an agreement with Research In Motion over the use of the BlackBerry in the Kingdom. (Getty Images)
By Bloomberg
Tue 10 Aug 2010 02:24 AM

Saudi Arabia’s government and Research In Motion have reportedly reached an agreement on the use of the company’s BlackBerry instant messaging service in the kingdom, a US spokesman said.

Speaking to reporters in Washington, Philip J Crowley, spokesman for the State Department, said: “There are reports of an agreement between RIM and Saudi Arabia."

He said department officials will meet with company officials today.

He added: “We’ll ask if it’s true, for particulars on how it was reached. We’ll see if we can’t be of assistance.”

The Arabian Gulf state’s three mobile phone operators have been testing a system that can monitor user data on BlackBerry devices to avert a scheduled midnight cutoff of the messaging service. Saudi Arabia has said it wants to monitor BlackBerry communications to prevent terrorism and illegal activities.

The Saudi situation is one of a growing number of countries in which Canada’s RIM faces scrutiny over BlackBerry email and messaging. The UAE, India and Indonesia have also expressed concern that such mobile communications could be used to violate laws or national mores.

RIM rose $1.86, or 3.5 percent, to $55.31 at 4 pm New York time in Nasdaq Stock Market trading. The stock has dropped 18 percent this year.

Saudi Arabia had ordered its operators to turn the BlackBerry instant messaging service off on Aug. 6 and then extended the deadline until midnight today. The service has mostly remained on, users said.

Negotiators have been weighing three alternatives for monitoring BlackBerry communications, Al Arabiya television reported today, citing unidentified sources at wireless operators.

The first option is that RIM agrees to give the kingdom special servers that make users’ data available to Saudi authorities, the Dubai based channel said.

The second choice is that the Canadian company grants Saudi telecom regulators “keys” to log into RIM’s main encrypted servers so that they can monitor data of Saudi phone company subscribers.

The third alternative is that the regulator resorts to third party companies to decipher BlackBerry messaging data.

Marisa Conway, a spokeswoman for Waterloo, Ontario based RIM, declined to comment on the State Department remarks. Her colleague Tenille Kennedy earlier declined to comment on the press reports.

RIM said Aug 4 it can’t meet requests for the codes to some users’ communications. The BlackBerry corporate service was designed to prevent RIM, or anyone else, from reading encrypted information and any claims that RIM provided “something unique to the government of one country” are unfounded, it said.

Etihad Etisalat Co, one of the country’s three carriers said it’s waiting for instructions from the country’s regulator on whether to shut off BlackBerry instant messaging.

“The issue is between CITC and RIM,” Abdullah Al Hariri, a spokesman for Etihad’s Mobily service, said in an email today, referring to the Communications and Information Technology Commission.

He added: “If CITC says to us stop it we will do that.”

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