UAE may restrict use of BlackBerry phones

The Telecommunication Regulatory Authority (TRA) of UAE said "BlackBerry operates beyond the jurisdiction of national legislation" as is stores its data offshore.

It said it was concerned that misuse may have "serious social, judicial and national security repercussions."

The TRA said BlackBerry operates beyond the jurisdiction of national legislation, as it is the only device operating in the UAE that immediately exports its data off-shore and is managed by a foreign, commercial organisation.

A statement from the TRA said the introduction of BlackBerry in the UAE in 2006 pre-dates the 2007 introduction of the UAE's Safety, Emergency and National Security legislation, which regulates BlackBerry applications in the UAE.

The TRA has taken issue with the encrypted networks used by Research in Motion (RIM) - the makers of the Blackberry handset. These make it difficult for governments to monitor communications.

BlackBerry phones went on sale before the country introduced its safety emergency and national security legislation in 2007.

"Currently, BlackBerry operates beyond the jurisdiction of national legislation, since it is the only device operating in the UAE that immediately exports its data offshore and is managed by a foreign, commercial organisation," said a statement from the regulator.

"As a result of how BlackBerry data is managed and stored, in their current form, certain BlackBerry applications allow people to misuse the service, causing serious social, judicial and national security repercussions.

"Like many other countries, we have been working for a long time to resolve these critical issues, with the objective of finding a solution that operates within the boundaries of UAE law."

In June 2009, a separate row erupted between RIM and the state telecoms firm Etisalat after which it released an "update" for the Blackberry handset that, said RIM, was spyware.

Etisalat has 145,000 BlackBerry users on its books. While 50 per cent of the UAE's population has some kind of internet access, authorities have imposed extensive filtering on what they can view.

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