Money Matters - Simplified

UAE intends to ban BlackBerry services

The United Arab Emirates Telecoms Regulatory Authority has alleged that Blackberry is the only operator doing business in UAE that sends data off-shore.

The United Arab Emirates as well as countries like Lebanon, India and Algeria are contemplating a ban on the use of Blackberry phones to send and receive messages.

The concern is that communication in form of messages from these popular Canadian-made handsets is encrypted and cannot be monitored; hence the ban is being mulled over.

Data encryption is the moot point
Manufactured by Waterloo, Ontario based company, Research in Motion (RIM), the Blackberry handsets mechanically encrypt messages and send them to computer servers in Canada.

Canada is apprehensive about "the broader implications of the potential interruptions of services that are being contemplated by these countries... in terms of the importance of the free flow of communications and information," said Canadian Trade Minister Peter Van Loan.

Authorities in different countries are demanding access to these messages as well as the mechanism to decrypt them to ward off any terror campaign or illicit activity that such encryption may facilitate.

Meanwhile, Canadian officials are in discussions with the Saudi government to assist RIM avoid the ban.

The United Arab Emirates Telecoms Regulatory Authority has alleged that Blackberry is the only operator doing business in UAE that sends data off-shore.

"In their current form, certain Blackberry services allow users to act without any legal accountability, causing judicial, social and national security concerns for the UAE," claims the government.

RIM meanwhile has said the company's products were "designed to preclude RIM, or any third party, from reading encrypted information under any circumstances since RIM does not store or have access to the encrypted data".

"RIM cannot accommodate any request for a copy of a customer's encryption key, since at no time does RIM, or any wireless network operator or any third party, ever possess a copy of the key," claims the company.

Concern over trade and business
The Canadian government, on its part, is concerned with the impact that a deadlock between these countries and RIM may have on business and trade.

Canada is apprehensive about "the broader implications of the potential interruptions of services that are being contemplated by these countries... in terms of the importance of the free flow of communications and information," said Canadian Trade Minister Peter Van Loan.

The authorities in Canada are also holding parleys with officials at RIM to work out a solution.

It has been learned that the Canada-Saudi Arabia talks had made some progress late Thursday.

Meanwhile, the United States has also pitched in to help arrive at a compromise between concerned governments and RIM.

"We are taking time to consult and analyse the full the range of interests and issues at stake, because we know that there is a legitimate security concern," Mrs Clinton said.

"But there is also a legitimate right of free use and access," averred Ms Clinton.

The UAE intends to enforce the ban, effective from Oct. 11.