8/2/2010 1:05:00 PM
UAE looks to UK regulation for BBM ban justification
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is expected to ban its users from using RIM’s BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) service from 11 October, after raising concerns about security.
The UAE’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) instructed the country’s two networks – Etislat and du – to suspend BBM, BlackBerry email and BlackBerry web browsing yesterday (1 August).
In a statement, the TRA said: ‘Today's decision is based on the fact that, in their current form, certain BlackBerry services allow users to act without any legal accountability, causing judicial, social and national security concerns for the UAE.’
The TRA has compared its decision with legislation in the UK and US allowing governments to intercept communication between mobile users.
The UAE regulator has pointed to the powers held by the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, Vince Cable, and Ofcom, pointing out that he has the power to suspend or restrict the services offered by a network. However, those powers can only be used when certain conditions arise, such as a threat to national security.
RIM said in statement: ‘RIM operates in over 175 countries today and provides a security architecture that is widely accepted by security conscious customers and governments around the world. RIM respects both the regulatory requirements of government and the security and privacy needs of corporations and consumers.
‘RIM does not disclose confidential regulatory discussions that take place with any government. However, RIM assures its customers that it is committed to continue delivering highly secure and innovative products that satisfy the needs of both customers and governments.’
News of the ban comes after RIM released figures about a spike in usage of BBM during the World Cup. During the Netherlands and Spain game, BBM usage increased by 280%.
RIM claims more than 25 million people use BBM. The service is popular in the UAE and other Gulf states.