Android isn't the only force that BlackBerry's reckoning with these days. The list of countries contemplating restricting residents and visitors from using the wireless devices is growing.
AP notes that Saudi Arabia's ban kicks in on Friday, while the UAE's shut-out is slated for October. Indonesia and India, meanwhile, have raised security concerns and are in talks with Research in Motion, the Canadian manufacturer of the ubiquitous smartphone.
Bruce Schneier, BT's chief security officer, tells the BBC that the UAE ban makes no sense.
"Others must send data out of the country. As to why BlackBerry has been singled out, I don't know," Schneier said.
"The plot thickens when it becomes obvious that other governments have," adds the BBC, "been able to gain access to data on the RIM network for some years." BlackBerry is keeping mum on the extent to which it has cooperated with governments.
RIM told Bloomberg it can’t meet requests for corporate customers’ encryption keys since it doesn’t have the codes. The reason: BlackBerry "was designed to prevent RIM, or anyone else, from reading encrypted information," and any claims that RIM provided "something unique to the government of one country" are unfounded, it said.
As we noted yesterday, a BlackBerry blackout in the UAE would particularly sting, as the Middle Eastern country is among the world's leaders in cell phone usage.
The reason for the ban, according to UAE regulators, is that the lack of compliance with local laws of BlackBerry devices raises "judicial, social and national security concerns for the UAE." BlackBerry phones are being targeted because they use overseas servers to receive users' data automatically.
Even as BlackBerry was in the midst of introducing its new Torch model this week, Saudi Arabia announced that it, too, would ban the BlackBerry in the country.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Saudi Arabia's beef is vague: the country's "telecommunications regulator said it's banning BlackBerry services until the kingdom's three wireless carriers, which have nearly 700,000 BlackBerry users, meet unspecified requirements." The bans in the UAE and Saudi Arabia would affect not only in-country users, but travelers coming to those countries as well.
India may be next. That country is "also raising concerns with RIM over the BlackBerry's tough encryption standards, which make it impossible to monitor communications for threats like terrorist attacks," reports the Journal.
Matthew Reed, head of wireless research in the Middle East and Africa for Informa Telecoms & Media, tells PC World that there are about 500,000 to 600,000 BlackBerry users in the UAE and about 700,000 in Saudi Arabia.
Reed says the ban by both countries puts RIM in a "tight spot because if it is seen to compromise with governments on security and privacy, BlackBerry will lose its attractiveness to customers."