UAE to curb BlackBerry usage for individuals: report

The United Arab Emirates will stop individuals and small businesses accessing the most private data services offered by BlackBerry, a UAE newspaper said on Saturday, months after resolving a dispute over its access to information.

Only businesses with 20 or more subscriptions will be allowed to use high security accounts on the BlackBerry Enterprise Server, which allows for services such as highly secure corporate email, The National newspaper reported.

The move comes six months after the UAE dropped a threat to suspend BlackBerry services in a dispute over access, and coincides with efforts by Arab states to stem rolling pro-democracy revolts, largely organized on social media, that have touched all but two Gulf countries, the UAE and Qatar.

Citing a ruling by the UAE's telecoms regulator, The National said that small businesses would still be able to use the BlackBerry Internet Service, which does not rely on private servers, as well as encrypted messaging.

BlackBerry maker Research In Motion encrypts email messages as they travel between a BlackBerry device and a computer known as BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES).

"Enterprise Services are to be made available to qualifying organizations only and not to private individuals," the paper quoted the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority as saying. The paper said the ruling would come into effect on May 1.

UAE officials could not be reached for comment.

Last year, the UAE threatened to suspend BlackBerry Messenger, email and web browser services unless RIM worked out a way to locate its encrypted computer servers in the country so the state could get access to email and other data -- the same access it says the United States, Russia and other states have.

The UAE, which like many Gulf states has little tolerance for dissent, had voiced concerns over its inability to access information legally, citing security and sovereignty issues.

But it dropped the threat days ahead of an October 11 deadline after resolving its dispute with Canada's RIM. The UAE gave no details of what RIM had agreed beyond stating that BlackBerry services were compliant with UAE telecoms regulations.

That dispute and others in the region highlighted growing nervousness at the time over regional security threats, ranging al Qaeda militancy to worries over Iran's nuclear work.

[Source: Reuters, Dubai, 15Apr11]

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