Backed by Clinton, RIM struggles against BlackBerry security concerns

The brouhaha surrounding Research In Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM) international BlackBerry service ratcheted up a notch as additional countries threatened to ban the gadget while high-ranking U.S. and Canadian officials sought to toe the line between addressing security concerns and promoting Internet freedoms.

The Canadian smartphone vendor has been dealing with international fallout all week after the United Arab Emirates announce over the weekend that it plans to begin blocking many BlackBerry mobile services in October, citing national security, unless RIM complies with local regulations.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the U.S. government is working to resolve the dispute with the U.A.E., but she also reaffirmed the Obama administration's support for uninhibited access to the Internet. "We are taking time to consult and analyze the full range of interests and issues at stake because we know that there is a legitimate security concern, but there's also a legitimate right of free use and access," Clinton said at a news conference in Washington on Thursday. "So I think we will be pursuing both technical and expert discussions as we go." The Canadian government said it is also in talks with the U.A.E.

Meanwhile, a BlackBerry ban went into effect in Saudi Arabia. However, many users in the country were still able to access their service, and negotiations were said to be continuing between RIM and the Saudi telecoms regulator. Lebanon voiced concerns about the service, but the Indonesian government retreated from the idea of blocking BlackBerry, according to Bloomberg.

RIM co-CEO Mike Lazaridis, in a "fiery" interview with the Wall Street Journal earlier this week, struck back at those seeking to block Blackberry service. "This is about the Internet," he said. "Everything on the Internet is encrypted. This is not a BlackBerry-only issue." He added: "If they can't deal with the Internet, they should shut it off."

For more:
- see this WSJ article (sub. req.)
- see this Reuters article
- see this Bloomberg article
- see this NYT article

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