Saudi Arabia has ordered the country's cell phone service providers to halt all BlackBerry services this week, the latest Mideast nation to announce moves to exercise greater control over data sent by the Research In Motion phones.
The country's Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) on Tuesday asked Saudi Telecom, Mobily, and Zain Saudi Arabia to suspend service to BlackBerry phones on Friday, the Saudi state news agency SPA said in a report detailed by Al Jazeera. The suspension was being implemented because BlackBerry service "in its present state does not meet regulatory requirements," the SPA said.
"CITC has informed the three mobile telecommunications providers more than a year ago of the need to quickly fulfill with the manufacturer of BlackBerry handsets the required regulatory requirements," it added.
RIM representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The prohibition is expected to impact about 700,000 BlackBerry users in Saudi Arabia.
The announcement comes just days after Saudi Arabia's neighbor, the United Arab Emirates, announced it would block e-mail, instant messaging, and Web browsing on BlackBerry devices starting October 11 if it fails to reach an agreement with RIM to bring BlackBerry services in the region in line with UAE telecommunications regulations. The UAE has complained that the security used to encrypt the BlackBerry data violates its regulations and prevents it from monitoring such data in the name of national security.
In a statement Tuesday responding to the UAE's threats, the company explained that data on its BlackBerry Enterprise Server network is encrypted so that no one, not even RIM, can access it. RIM added that it would be unable to "accommodate any request for a copy of a customer's encryption key since at no time does RIM, or any wireless network operator, ever possess a copy of the key."
"Any claims that we provide, or have ever provided, something unique to the government of one country that we have not offered to the governments of all countries, are unfounded," it said.
RIM has been in talks with India over similar concerns, but a RIM spokesperson denied published reports that it had granted that government access to e-mail and data surveillance.
"We respect the requirements of regulatory bodies in terms of security, but we also look at the customer's need for privacy," RIM's India spokesperson told the Associated Press.