Canadian vendor Research in Motion was reportedly racing to placate Middle Eastern governments early this month, as both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates threatened to cut off services.
The Saudi Arabian government threatened to cut off service to BlackBerry devices immediately, while the UAE Telecoms Regulatory Authority announced that it would be cutting off BlackBerry services from October 11 this year. Both countries are unhappy that they are unable to monitor traffic to and from the devices, because traffic on RIM’s enterprise service is encrypted between BlackBerry phones and RIM’s own Canada-based servers.
Local reports claimed that RIM had caved to demands from the Indian government too, providing it with “technical codes for corporate email services.”
RIM, which has been trying to focus on the launch of its BlackBerry 6 operating system and Torch touch phone in early August, denied pandering to any governments’ demands.
“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,” the firm said in a statement.
However, Jeffrey Carr, security expert and coordinator of the Grey Goose cyberwarfare monitoring project points to press reports indicating that RIM worked with local Russian carrier MTS to provide encryption keys, meeting requirements by the Russian government.
The BlackBerry was launched in UAE in 2006, and the service has been hit by controversy since. Local carrier Etisalat shipped an unofficial performance update for the phone’s software that RIM confirmed was sending messages received on phones back to a central server. The phone manufacturer then offered software that would remove the device.