Blackberry needs to compromise or pull out

03 August 2010

If the Blackberry service is stopped, it will dismay the legions of users who rely on it in the region 

Barack Obama is said to swear by his, and 80.8 per cent of MEED subscribers recently polled said it was their handset of choice for day-to-day business operations.

But despite its popularity, the UAE and Saudi Arabia have taken a dimmer view of the Blackberry mobile phone.

The decision to ban some services provided by Blackberry has reopened the debate about right to privacy in the region.

In the Gulf, controlling the flow of information has always been taken seriously by governments and the row over Blackberry services has been running since 2007. UAE telecoms provider Etisalat even attempted to install spyware on Blackberry handsets in 2009. Canada’s Research in Motion (Rim), the firm that manufactures the handsets, has maintained that sending the data offshore is essential for its business customers to send information securely.

Something has to give and the best solution for regional users is if Rim decides that the GCC is a market it cannot afford to lose. In that scenario, it will agree to open a regional data hub in the GCC. This would be acceptable to the UAE and Saudi Arabia, providing both could access information on national security concerns, as well as keep the firm in line with telecoms legislation. If Rim decides that it does not want to set a precedent regarding the transfer of its data, then the smart phone of choice for the region’s businessmen is set to gather dust in office drawers across the Gulf.

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