BlackBerry gets a reprieve in Saudia Arabia

6 Aug 2010

It may be too early to say, but it seems the BlackBerry smartphone and its related email wireless data services have been given a reprieve in Saudi Arabia. But this raises questions as to whether RIM has brokered a deal with the Saudi government.

If RIM indeed has brokered a deal that would allow Saudi national security to have access to wireless data transmissions, other governments in the region, especially the United Arab Emirates (UAE) would also demand similar access, posing a credibility issue for RIM.

The co-chief executive of RIM, Mike Lazardis, said earlier this week that he and his company will not compromise or endanger its relationships with customers, which include major companies and law enforcement agencies.

He denied that his company has already granted concessions to governments in China and India.

Lazardis added that if he were to order the shutting down of encryption on wireless data traffic it would also mean shutting it down for key services like e-commerce, teleconferencing and electronic money transfers.

The fear is that other countries around the world with pluralistic political regimes may make the same threats as UAE and Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi government had threatened to shut down BlackBerry’s service today and indeed according to reports the smartphones had stopped working for hours.

However, within the last hour or so reports suggests the service is up and running again.

Neighbouring UAE has given RIM an October deadline to either provide its security services with access to transmissions or it will also shut down the pioneering mobile email service.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years