Blackberry use at risk in UAE

The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA), the body responsible for the management of telecommunications and information technology industries within the United Arab Emirates is threatening to block critical functionality of Research In Motion's popular BlackBerry messaging devices.

BlackBerries encrypt data between the handset and servers in the infrastructure, making it impossible for eavesdropping government agencies to easily intercept any emails, Instant Messages or other Internet traffic.

The TRA is asking RIM to provide access by October 11 2010, on request, to information on specific users' activity and if RIM refuses to comply the TRA will limit the functionality of the Blackberry devices to voice and SMS messaging (which they can intercept through the carrier networks).  This action would risk nearly a million BlackBerry subscribers in the UAE territory - not to mention visitors from overseas.

Some of the Emirates have already taken unilateral action.  Etisalat, a Abu Dhabi-based mobile carrier part owned by Dubai governmentshipped a 'service enhancement' patch to 145,000 Blackberry subscribers in Dubai around this time last year that turned out to contain spyware.

Update- Saudi Arabia is also banning BlackBerries on the grounds of national security according to the WSJ.