The United Arab Emirates has declared the Research in Motion‘s BlackBerry smartphones are a potential threat to national security, because BlackBerry data services and storage operate offshore and outside the jurisdiction of UAE laws. According to the UAE, that means the services are ripe for misuse, with “serious social, judicial, and national security repercussions.” The UAE says the practice also violates a 2007 telecommunications law…although BlackBerry service first started up in the UAE in 2006. BlackBerry devices are the only phones operating in the country that use private, offshore data services.
The United Arab Emirates has been working hard to establish itself—and Dubai—as an international business mecca; however, the country is also considered to run one of the broadest Internet censorship operations, forcibly censoring data and requiring the nation’s ISPs to ban sensitive information, adult materials, as well as content that violates the government’s moral values. The country also bars most VoIP services and block all domains associated with Israel.
Last year, the state-owned mobile operator Etisalat attempted to require UAE BlackBerry users to install software described as an “update” required to access enhancements to the BlackBerry service. At the time, RIM said said testing revealed the update was in fact spy software that enabled the mobile operator—or others, such as the UAE government or attackers—to access private data on the phones. RIM provided instructions to UAE BlackBerry users on how to remove the software. To date, the UAE government has not attempted to clarify its role in the incident.
The UAE says it has been working to resolve these issues in a way that protects its citizens and complies with UAE law.