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Put the phone down: Emirates declares BlackBerry illegal

Barack Obama’s favourite toy is declared a security threat by the United Arab Emirates.
Jul 27th 2010, 8:45 AM 367 0

THE UNITED ARAB EMIRATES may be thought of as one of the merging business centres of the world – but that hasn’t stopped the country from ruling BlackBerries illegal.

The state declared on Monday that the methods in which the smartphones stores data offshore – outside of the jurisdiction of local laws – presents a threat to national security.

Its Telecommunications Regulatory Authority said the devices – which arrived in the country in 2006 – were essentially made illegal under a 2007 law dealing with offshore data storage.

“As a result of how BlackBerry data is managed and stored, in their current form, certain BlackBerry applications allow people to misuse the service, causing serious social, judicial and national security repercussions,” it said.

The decision – which will likely go down like a lead balloon with the local business industry, and indeed with international travellers visiting Dubai and Abu Dhabi – follows a squabble between the UAE and the BlackBerry’s manufacturer, Research In Motion (RIM), last year.

It will be welcomed by competitors like Apple and Google, however, whose iPhone and Android operating systems do not fall foul of such laws.

The state-owned mobile network Etisalat last year required local BlackBerry owners to install what it described as an “update” to their handsets’ software.

RIM insisted, however, that the ‘update’ was in fact spy software allowing the operator – and the government – to access private data, and issued instructions on how to remove the software.

The UAE operates one of the world’s broadest internet censorship routines, banning adult materials, most internet telephony services like Skype, and all web addresses ending with .il – the internet domain of Israel.

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Gavan Reilly

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