BlackBerry maker Research in Motion (RIM) said here on Monday that it would not compromise on security and privacy of its smartphones while responding to the ban on BlackBerry by the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.
The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of the UAE said on Sunday that it would ban BlackBerry email, messaging and web services from October 11, as RIM smartphones send users’ data to its centres overseas. Saudi Arabia has also announced it would follow the UAE in banning BlackBerry.
“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 regulator had said last week before announcing the ban date Sunday.
BlackBerry maker RIM, which is based at Waterloo near Toronto, said in a statement on Monday that though UAE concerns are justified, it will not compromise the security and privacy of BlackBerry users.
“While RIM does not disclose confidential regulatory discussions that take place with any government, RIM assures its customers that it is committed to delivering highly secure and innovative products that satisfy the needs of both customers and governments,” the statement said.
“Governments have a wide range of resources and methodologies to satisfy national security and law enforcement needs without compromising commercial security requirements.”
The UAE ban will also cover foreign travellers passing through Emirate airports.
BlackBerry has over 500,000 subscribers in the UAE. But the impact of the ban will be much wider as about 100,000 foreign travellers - mostly corporate honchos and business people - pass through its Dubai airport daily. Currently, BlackBerry operations in the UAE account for 3 per cent of its global business.
Analysts here said the ultra-conservative UAE and Saudi Arabia are targeting the BlackBerry as its secure technology doesn’t allow these governments to see people’s emails.
Unlike other smartphones - iPhone 4 or Nokia - whose services are handled by local wireless operators, BlackBerry doesn’t send emails over the internet. BlackBerry messages are first encrypted and securely stored on the smartphone and then sent out in encrypted manner through its own highly secure Network Operation Centre or server.
Because of its secure encryption technology, BlackBerry has been a hit with global corporates, financial institutions and governments in more than 170 countries, accounting for more than 46 million subscribers worldwide as of today.
In fact, President Obama didn’t give up his BlackBerry even after assuming office because of its “security architecture”.
But since BlackBerry is losing smartphone market to Apple’s iPhone 4 and Google Android devices in North America and concentrating on emerging markets, analysts think RIM will reach a compromise before the UAE ban comes into force.
Handling UAE data locally by installing network nodes could be one of the solutions, they said.