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Saudi Arabia Announces Immediate Suspension of BlackBerry Data Services

a blackberry crossed outOn Sunday, telecom regulators from the United Arab Emirates announced their plans to suspend e-mail, instant messaging and Web-browsing services for BlackBerry users, due to manufacturer RIM's refusal to allow the government to monitor the data sent across its network. Now, another major Middle East country has instituted a similar ban that, unlike the UAE's, will go into effect very soon.

On Tuesday, Saudi Arabia's Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) formally asked Saudi Telecom, Mobily and Zain Saudi Arabia to suspend services to BlackBerry users, beginning this Friday. As the Saudi news agency SPA told Al Jazeera, telecom regulators decided to implement the ban because RIM's BlackBerry data service "in its present state does not meet regulatory requirements." According to CNET, some 700,000 Saudi Arabian users are expected to be affected by the latest suspension.

RIM, meanwhile, appears to be holding its ground. Although the company hasn't commented on Saudi Arabia's move, it did issue a statement yesterday in response to the UAE's announcement. According to the manufacturer, data sent across its BlackBerry Enterprise Server network is so well encrypted that not even RIM can access it. Providing government officials with a key to the network, then, would be impossible, since "at no time does RIM, or any wireless network operator, ever possess a copy of the key."

RIM has also denied previous reports claiming that it granted network access to Indian authorities, who had lobbied for greater data surveillance on the grounds that militant groups were using BlackBerrys to organize attacks within the country. "Any claims that we provide, or have ever provided, something unique to the government of one country that we have not offered to the governments of all countries, are unfounded," RIM insisted.

When the UAE announced that it would begin restricting BlackBerry use on October 11th, it was clear that regulators were simply trying to force RIM's hand, and pressure the company into handing over its keys to the palace. Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, apparently doesn't have the time or patience for any further negotiations. RIM may have tried to call Abu Dhabi's bluff with yesterday's statement, but it'll probably take a lot more than persistent denials to win back the Saudi market. [From: Al Jazeera, via: CNET]

Tags: BlackBerry, data, email, government, monitor, privacy, ResearchInMotion, RIM, SaudiArabia, SaudiArabianBan, top, uae, UnitedArabEmirates