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BlackBerry service to be suspended by UAE

Regulator objects to data moving offshore

Some BlackBerry services will be suspended in the United Arab Emirates from October 11 because the services do not fall in line with the country's regulations, the UAE telecommunications regulator said on Sunday.

"BlackBerry data is immediately exported offshore, where it is managed by a foreign, commercial organisation," the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) of the UAE said in a statement that was published on its website website. "Blackberry data services are currently the only data services operating in the U.A.E. where this is the case," it added.

TRA said that "in their current form, certain Blackberry services allow users to act without any legal accountability, causing judicial, social and national security concerns".

The suspension is a result of the failure of ongoing attempts, dating back to 2007, to bring BlackBerry services in line with the country’s telecommunications regulations, the TRA added. The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday that RIM recently refused to set up a proxy server in the U.A.E. and that the U.A.E. government is concerned that instant messages sent via BlackBerry's service cannot be traced, so it cannot be monitored or used in criminal or terrorist investigations. The Journal quoted two different anonymous sources regarding the reasons for the U.A.E.'s decision.

The action against RIM, which offers its BlackBerry services through network operating centers in Canada, comes even as India is demanding that RIM should locate a server in India, and provide easy access to messages in the country to India’s security agencies.

RIM did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the decision by the TRA.

The U.A.E. government regards the services offered by BlackBerry, especially its instant messaging, as an obstacle to its goal of reinforcing censorship, filtering and surveillance, Reporters Without Borders said last Monday after the TRA voiced its security concerns last Sunday.

The notification that services are being suspended came with an instruction to ensure minimal consumer disruption in the provision of alternative services, the TRA said.

Etisalat said on Sunday that it was informed by the TRA to suspend BlackBerry services providing email, web browsing, instant messaging and social networking from October 11 until an acceptable solution “can be developed and applied” which brings the BlackBerry services in line with the U.A.E.’s telecommunications regulations.

The operator said its current focus is to make sure its customers experience continuity of mobility services. Etisalat will soon be announcing a range of alternative mobility products and services for its existing BlackBerry customers.

Customers will be able to use their BlackBerry devices after Oct. 11 for voice, SMS (short message services), MMS (multimedia messaging service) web browsing, and some other applications, said Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Company which uses the trade name du in the UAE.


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