Middle Eastern Blackberry Ban Could Set Dangerous Precedent
Amid fears that encrypted emails pose a security threat in an already unstable situation, the Lebanese government announced that it will explore banning BlackBerry email service in the country. This makes Lebanon the third Middle Eastern country this week to go after BlackBerry, with Saudi Arabia cutting off service tomorrow, and the UAE announcing it will block BlackBerry emails in October.
Unlike other smart phones, traffic from BlackBerries pass through encrypted servers run by Research in Motion (RIM), the company that makes BlackBerries. The encryption protects the emails from government snooping, and the ban would only block those encrypted emails, not traffic sent over websites by an Internet-connected BlackBerry.
The ban will not have a profound effect on either RIM or businesses in those three countries, as BlackBerry penetration is relatively low throughout the Mideast, said Jeff Orr, the principle analyst for mobile devices at the telecommunications monitoring house ABI Research.
“The Middle East is not a big RIM market ,” Orr told TechNewsDaily. “I don’t think this will have significant impact on their revenue. The question is whether this is a beginning of a trend in certain parts of the world.”
Currently, none of the countries have explained why they have moved to ban BlackBerry use, other than saying they believe that emails shielded from government view constitute a threat to their national security.
“Different people are going to have different opinions about what the motives are. I’m inclined to believe that the governments are looking for unilateral access to traffic so they can monitor it as they want,” Orr said.
“It’s just a government looking to maintain control over what people are seeing or doing, not to stifle competition.”