2 August 2010
The United Arab Emirates has announced that it is to suspend the internet services of the BlackBerry smart phone. The ban may lead to similar actions from other Gulf states.
Click to hear the report:
The proposed ban follows a three-year dispute between the UAE authorities and RIM, the makers of the phone. The UAE says it wants access to the security software that would allow it to intercept and monitor messages and emails.
But the firm's refusal has led the government to issue its strongest statement yet. It calls the devices "a threat to national security". But given its popularity here, an outright ban will be controversial.
The move has already sparked widespread criticism. Many suggest it's another move by the government to censor information and restrict free speech. A botched attempt last year to download spyware onto users' phones also raised fears of government monitoring.
But the regulators here are quick to deny that claim. They say the phone simply doesn't comply with domestic security laws.
So is a ban really likely? Some here say it's little more than an attempt to force RIM to back down or risk losing a wealthy market.
But whilst this country is a lucrative market for the firm, it remains a small one. There are just 500,000 BlackBerry users across the country. That could mean the UAE finds it needs BlackBerry more than BlackBerry needs the UAE.
Ben Thompson, BBC News, Dubai
Click to hear the vocabulary:
seize something before it reaches its destination
strong negative response
- outright ban
remove any material considered to be offensive or politically dangerous
something that's been done badly or carelessly
computer software that obtains information from a user's computer without their knowledge or consent
- back down
admit defeat, or, in this context, withdraw from the argument