Tuesday, August 3, 2010

US push to ban BlackBerry in UAE and Saudi Arabia

The US is to push the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia to lift the proposed ban on people using BlackBerry email, messaging and web services. BlackBerry maker Research In Motion is willing to block porn sites and let government spies snoop on users, newspapers reported, following a shock ban on its key services in the Gulf.

With the State Department’s criticism of the United Arab Emirates for blocking BlackBerry services, the U.S. government is left walking a fine line preaching for global Internet freedom at the same time that federal authorities are seeking greater powers to monitor Web users, privacy advocates say.

It has also emerged that the ban will apply to foreign visitors in the country including the 100,000 travelers who pass through Dubai airport every day. The UAE has increased its security efforts since it arrested two men in 2009 for plotting to plant a bomb near a massive shopping center with nearly 4,000 shops in Dubai, the Middle East's trade and business hub. In January, Dubai was rocked by the assassination of a Palestinian Hamas commander in a luxury hotel which police said was the work of Israeli agents.

Reporters without Borders, a press freedom group has urged the UAE government to lift its ban and reach a compromise “that does not limit the freedom of the Emirati population”. Research in Motion, the manufacturer of Black-Berries, said it “respects both the regulatory requirements of government and the security and privacy needs of corporations and consumers”.