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Dublin: 2°C Wednesday 12 May 2021

Saudi Arabia scraps BlackBerry ban after getting 'server codes'

BlackBerry makers hand over access to local users’ chat messages in order to keep the smartphone legal.

Image: Honou via Flickr

SAUDI ARABIA has scrappedits decision to ban the BlackBerry smartphone, after the smartphone’s manufacturer struck a deal to use domestic servers to store users’ chat messages – and give the government access to it.

Saudi Arabia joined the United Arab Emirates in declaring last month that the methods used by the popular smartphones in storing data offshore – outside of the jurisdiction of local laws – presented a threat to national security.

Now, however, the phone’s manufacturer Research In Motion (RIM) has handed over certain codes to the Saudi authorities that would allow the government to access messages sent using its popular BlackBerry Messenger tool.

The arrangement gives the government access to secure domestic servers on which the messaging data is stored, but only allows the government to view messages sent to and from Saudi BlackBerry owners.

The country’s three mobile networks tested their own inland servers – previously RIM had routed all chat data to its own encrypted servers housed in its native Canada – and found that they abided by local data protection laws.

The threat from the Saudi government, according to opponents of the move, is intended to limit communication between unrelated men and women, which is currently heavily restricted by law.

The United Arab Emirates, however, is more concerns with security protection since the killing of a Hamas leader in Dubai, in which fake Irish passports were used. It says it will not implemented its ban on the handsets until October.

RIM’s woes are not over, however, with the news that the Indian government has raised similar data concerns and is keen to implement its own Saudi-style solution, which would be accessed during ‘times of emergency’.

About the author:

Gavan Reilly

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