RIM, State Dept. defend BlackBerry security following U.A.E. ban

Research In Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM) reaffirmed its commitment to BlackBerry users' data security after the United Arab Emirates said it will block BlackBerry mobile services beginning in October. The international dust-up has managed to draw the attention of the U.S. government, which defended the Canadian vendor's stance.

The U.A.E. said on Sunday that beginning Oct. 11 it will ban most BlackBerry services, citing national security concerns. The ban is expected to apply to both domestic BlackBerry users in the Persian Gulf nation as well as those traveling abroad. According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, the U.A.E.'s government is worried it will not be able to force RIM to turn over customer data.

In a statement, RIM did not address the ban or its talks with the U.A.E. However, it defended its data security system, which enterprise users have relied on for years. The Canadian company said its network is deigned so that "no one, including RIM, could access'' customer data. The company also said it would "simply be unable to accommodate any request'' for a key to decode the data, since it does not have one.

U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said the U.A.E's decision would set a "dangerous precedent" for other countries seeking to block information.

"We're disappointed at the announcement," Crowley said. "We are committed to promoting the free flow of information. We think it's innovative. It's integral to an innovative economy and we will be clarifying with the U.A.E. their reasons for making this announcement."

The U.A.E. defended its stance, and pointed out how the United States and Britain have taken steps to block certain communications for national security purposes in the past. "In fact, the U.A.E. is asking for exactly the same regulatory compliance--and with the same principles of judicial and regulatory oversight--that BlackBerry grants the U.S. and other governments and nothing more," Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba said in a statement. "Importantly, the U.A.E. requires the same compliance as the U.S. for the very same reasons: to protect national security and to assist in law enforcement."

For more:
- see this WSJ article (sub. req.)
- see this Washington Post article
- see this NYT article

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