Blackberry Caved to Saudi Demands: Rights Group

Christian Science Monitor, by Stephen Kurczy
BlackBerry messenger services will continue in Saudi Arabia after the company reportedly satisfied the kingdom’s demands for data access.

It is unclear exactly what Saudi Arabia requested or what BlackBerry maker Research in Motion (RIM) allowed. But it amounts to RIM caving in to Saudi Arabia and compromising the security of users' phone data, says Robert Guerra of Freedom House.

“RIM’s decision to capitulate so easily says that their corporate interests are most important,” says Mr. Guerra, the Internet freedom project director of the Washington-based watchdog group. “It’s all about business – they didn’t want to lose (a) market.”

RIM’s stock price on NASDAQ rose 1.12 percent Tuesday. Saudi Arabia has an estimated 700,000 BlackBerry users, many of whom see the tightly encrypted phones as a way to avoid government surveillance.

Saudi Arabia announced a ban originally to start Aug. 6, but delayed it until Tuesday as negotiations continued. The United Arab Emirates last week announced a ban on BlackBerry services starting Oct. 11 unless it can access encrypted messages, citing security concerns. Lebanon is also threatening a ban, while India has been in negotiations with the company for weeks.

The Wall Street Journal first reported Tuesday that Saudi Arabia and RIM had reached an agreement. Read more.

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