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UAE and BlackBerry resolve security dispute

Research In Motion reaches an agreement with the Emirates to avoid having the handsets banned from the country.

Image: Honou via Flickr

THE MAKERS of the BlackBerry smartphone have struck a deal with the United Arab Emirates to avoid having BlackBerry services suspended in the country.

The Emirates had said it would ban the handsets’ email, web and Messenger services because data sent through those services were stored on servers held outside the country, in breach of its strict data protection laws.

BlackBerry had been given until October 11 – next Monday – to remedy the breach or face the suspension of its services by imposing restrictions on the services that each of the country’s mobile phone carriers could offer.

It now appears, however, that the handset’s manufacturers Research In Motion (RIM) have managed to circumvent the issue by establishing alternate servers hosted within the Emirates themselves.

State news agency WAM said in a statement that the country’s “Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) has confirmed that Blackberry services are now compliant with the UAE’s telecommunications regulatory framework.”

RIM had previously agreed similar deals with India and Saudi Arabia, where it offered governments access to local servers so that they could view copies of any communications sent through the devices.

The UAE had declared the handsets illegal in July after deeming that the offshore data storage had been made illegal in 2007.

“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,” the TRA had said.

The UAE operates one of the world’s most strictly censored internet regimes – it bans Skype and any web address ending with the .il domain of Israel – and had last year issued a “firmware update” to BlackBerry users through its nationally-owned mobile network, Etisalat.

That update turned out to be a spyware program which allowed the government to view material sent through the handsets.

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Gavan Reilly

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