BlackBerry faces new government crackdowns on phone use

The use of BlackBerrys will be banned throughout the United Arab Emirates, raising the stakes in the country's confrontation with the smartphone's maker, Research in Motion (RIM), for the second time in 24 hours.

The UAE, which counts the regional business centre Dubai among its seven emirates, had already announced a ban on BlackBerry email, web browsing and messaging services – which will start on 11 October – unless RIM agrees compromises to allow the government access to customer details.

The country's telecoms regulator said yesterday it will also block such traffic from foreign devices roaming on the UAE's two local networks.

RIM shares fell more than 2 per cent in early trading yesterday, even as the rest of the stock market was sharply higher, as analysts considered the position in which the company now finds itself.

The company's popularity in the West has been built on the security of technology, but that very security is bringing it increasingly into conflict with governments in emerging markets, where it has been chasing growth opportunities for the future.

The row threatens to overshadow the launch today of what is believed to be a new operating system for the next generation of BlackBerrys, including a new touchscreen device designed to take on Apple's iPhone.

Data travelling to and from BlackBerrys is encrypted directly on the phone and routed via secure servers in Canada. The UAE and other governments have argued that this puts BlackBerry users uniquely beyond the scope of their national security laws and would prevent the authorities from having access to information to monitor security threats and investigate crime. Saudi Arabia is preparing a ban on BlackBerry's messenger service and India, too, had threatened a ban, although it now says it is in talks with RIM about a possible compromise.

In the Middle East, the device has surged in popularity precisely because of the opportunity it provides to circumvent government restrictions and conservative morals, according to Matthew Reed, a mobile analyst for the market research firm Informa based in Dubai. "The BlackBerry is very popular partly for the same reasons it is popular elsewhere, namely, business like email on the go and the security of BlackBerry messenger. But what is different in this region is some of the other uses for it.

"In Saudi Arabia, for example, where there are rigid limits on association between the sexes, people are using BlackBerry messenger for dating and socialising in ways that were difficult before. Also, there have been some people using it for political association and activism."

Any compromises in the Middle East or elsewhere could rebound on RIM, warned Tim Renowden, a telecoms policy and regulation analyst at the consulting firm Ovum.

"The difficulty is that security has been a key selling point for BlackBerry and acquiescing to government demands would significantly undermine its security credentials, particularly with business and public sector customers. There are legitimate reasons for wanting data encryption and privacy – and there is a concern that if RIM compromises with one government then others will demand the same access," he said.

"This is part of a wider debate around government monitoring and filtering of telecommunications and the internet, with deep implications for privacy, freedom of speech and national security.

"The loss of access to the UAE market will upset BlackBerry customers and international business travellers in the region, but RIM looks likely maintain its current stance and avoid damage to its reputation in the much larger North American and Western European markets."

Reflecting the sensitivity of the situation, RIM has been slow to reveal its hand and issued a boilerplate statement yesterday assuring customers it remained committed to their privacy.

"The company respects both the regulatory requirements of government and the security and privacy needs of corporations and consumers. RIM does not disclose confidential regulatory discussions that take place with any government, however, RIM assures its customers that it is committed to continue delivering highly secure and innovative products that satisfy the needs of both customers and governments."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Supporting role: at the Supreme Court, Rhodes was accompanied by a famous friend, the actor Benedict Cumberbatch
booksPianist James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to stop the injunction of his memoirs
Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan
filmDheepan, film review
Sport
Steven Gerrard scores for Liverpool
sport
News
Tattoo enthusiast Cammy Stewart poses for a portrait during the Great British Tattoo Show
In picturesThe Great British Tattoo Show
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Neil Pavier: Management Accountant

£45,000 - £55,000: Neil Pavier: Are you looking for your next opportunity for ...

Sheridan Maine: Commercial Accountant

£45,000 - £55,000: Sheridan Maine: Are you a newly qualified ACA/ACCA/ACMA qua...

Laura Norton: Project Accountant

£50,000 - £60,000: Laura Norton: Are you looking for an opportunity within a w...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?