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Tue 3 Aug 2010 12:59 AM

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US BlackBerry comments 'disappointing' - UAE official

US State Department noted that BlackBerry decision was 'setting a dangerous precedent'.

US BlackBerry comments 'disappointing' - UAE official
DANGEROUS PRECEDENT: The United States has expressed its disappointment that the UAE planned to cut off key BlackBerry services. (Getty Images)

The United States said it was disappointed that the UAE planned to cut off key BlackBerry services, noting that the Gulf nation was setting a dangerous precedent in limiting freedom of information.

PJ Crowley, spokesman, State Department, said: "We are committed to promoting the free flow of information. We think it's integral to an innovative economy."

The UAE said over the weekend that it would suspend Research In Motion's BlackBerry Messenger, email and Web browser services from Oct 11 until the government could get access to encrypted messages.

Crowley said the United States was seeking additional information from the UAE about its security concerns, but urged the country to allow BlackBerry services to aid the free flow of information.

Crowley said: "It's about what we think is an important element of democracy, human rights and freedom of information and the flow of information in the 21st century," adding that the United States makes the same argument to Iran and China.

He added: "We think it sets a dangerous precedent. You should be opening up societies to these new technologies that have the opportunity to empower people rather than looking to see how you can restrict certain technologies."

Yousef Al Otaiba, the UAE Ambassador to the United States, said Crowley's comments were disappointing and contradict the US government's own approach to telecommunication regulation.

Otaiba said: "In fact, the UAE is exercising its sovereign right and is asking for exactly the same regulatory compliance - and with the same principles of judicial and regulatory oversight - that Blackberry grants the US and other governments and nothing more."

He said: "Importantly, the UAE requires the same compliance as the US for the very same reasons: to protect national security and to assist in law enforcement."

He added: "It is regrettable that after several years of discussions, BlackBerry is still not compliant with UAE regulatory requirements even as it complies with similar policies in other countries." (Reuters)

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Neil 9 years ago

I don't agree with the ban but if the Americans can demand access to this data then it is not unreasonable for other countries to do the same. The US's habit of preaching one thing and doing whatever it likes itself is wearing.

Joe 9 years ago

The USA, once again the great preacher; already has servers set up by RIM so that homeland security can monitor all traffic, this is being done or already done in China and India. RIM should address the UAE's security concerns and set up a server here. The USA has been monitoring private telecom signals for over 50 years, so much for the 'free flow of information'. Crowley's statement about protecting freedom of speech and democracy is comical at best. Maybe he is about to apply that logic to Wikileaks.

Wajid Abbas 9 years ago

RIM should take care of UAE as a valued customer like they do for other countries. As a customer UAE has right to reject any product which don’t meet their requirements. On other hand TRA should take care for the in house customers (the People of UAE), as all the users are getting disturbed because of unprofessional business approach of RIM, so to give some compassion to the people using Black Berry, TRA should impose penalty on RIM.

Interested 9 years ago

It feels like a lot of the BlackBerry stories (and a lot of stories these days) are using a lot of PR speak whereby one phrase is used to mean something else or to evoke a certain reaction, without necessarily spelling out the details. From what I've seen, the media don't seem to be asking questions around this. In this instance: Is it actually the same compliance being asked for? What specifically/actually is the UAE asking for in terms of information access and how does that request differ from the other places? In conversation, I've been told that access in the US is on the basis of a warrant being issued. Is that what is being asked for by the UAE ie being able access a set of info on the basis of a specific case and accompanying authorised request? - or is it, as was described to me, a demand for unfettered continual access to all information: personal, commercial and otherwise? I'm unclear on whether these details are correct - but the two items are quite different, and in my mind would provoke different reactions from RIM, who have info-security as one of their key selling points. (which is probably why Obama uses a BlackBerry?). Also, what is the UAE approach / rules framework around info access by authorities and what authorities can demand or have access? Eg From what I've heard, currently all electronic and phone communications in the UAE are monitored, recorded etc. Can/Do the government owned commercial entities have access to the commercially sensitive communications of private-sector competitors? I don't think anyone has a real problem with the idea of the authorities being able to crack down on terrorism/etc, (likely even moreso if that power is balanced by protections in relation to personal free speech/privacy/etc) - but using it or national security as a buzzword to gloss over the other detail in these sort of stories perhaps muddies the point? I can see both sides of the info-access argument. But it is interesting to see what isn't being talked about, and the lack of questions that are asked in the media about the actual subject.

gordon 9 years ago

we had the same issue in the 1960's with unlicensed radio stations. We had the same issue hundreds of years ago with the introduction of the Gutenbersgs printing press in 1450.... Pigeons kept in peoples lofts.

bilal 9 years ago

Could this also be one of those historic 'July/August' decisions?...that is, when the big boys at the top are out of town and someone junior has done the damage?

Mike Lazaridis 9 years ago

Anyone who uses the internet or other information share systems and realistically expects any level of privacy is an idiot, get real!

info 9 years ago

"RIM's statement didn't address the ban or its talks with U.A.E. directly, citing the "confidential nature'' of discussions with governments. But the company outlined the features of BlackBerry's security system and said it would be impossible for RIM to circumvent them. RIM said the BlackBerry network was set up so that "no one, including RIM, could access'' customer data, which is encrypted from the time it leaves the device. It added RIM would "simply be unable to accommodate any request'' for a key to decrypt the data, since the company doesn't have the key. The BlackBerry network is designed "to exclude the capability for RIM or any third party to read encrypted information under any circumstances,'' RIM's statement said. The location of BlackBerry's servers doesn't matter, the company said, because the data on them can't be deciphered without a decryption key. " There's also a Reuters interview here:¤tlyPlayingCollection=News¤tlyPlayingVideoId={A35B4840-CE23-4A49-8820-231608AA7676}

Telco guy 9 years ago

@Mike, yes i use the internet and i expect a certain level of privacy. Obviously not when posting on a public forum, but yes fro my communications. You can check plenty solutions. I would advise you to consider PGP or its open source alternative GnuPG. Any company not taking care of data security are grossly negligent. And mine is a 10 people company!

mohammed 9 years ago

This has nothing to do with security and everything to do with profits. Blackberry users get charged a flat fee for unlimited usage of internet, emails, downloads, etc... even when roaming outside the country. By having people switch (Etisalat and Du have quickly offered free devices!!) to iPhone, Nokia, etc... they get to charge for every kilo byte of downloaded data whether its email or otherwise. Think of the incredible profits to come. I would buy Etisalat shares!!!