- By Jennifer T. Parker Jennifer Parker is a researcher at Foreign Policy.
BlackBerry phones may be unwelcome guests at dinner parties, in class, or at the movies, but in the UAE, the smartphones have recently been labeled a "security threat."
"As a result of how Blackberry data is managed and stored, in their current form, certain Blackberry applications allow people to misuse the service, causing serious social, judicial and national security repercussions," an authority from the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority declared.
Despite what may appear to be honest "social [and] judicial" concerns, Emrati officials are annoyed because they can’t access BlackBerry users’ personal data. Research in Motion, the company behind BlackBerrys, stores their customers’ data overseas – outside of the UAE’s jurisdiction.
But, this is just the latest attempt at censorship. A year ago, the country’s biggest state-run mobile provider Etisalat, promoted an update to the phone that would have allowed the company to access users’ personal data like emails and text messages; but it was met with fierce opposition. More recently, Bahrain banned BlackBerry’s "Urgent News" app which aggregated stories from the country’s six main newspapers.
Reporters Without Borders listed the UAE as an "Enemy of the Internet" and recently stated that the UAE "regards the services offered by BlackBerry, especially its instant messaging, as an obstacle to its goal of reinforcing censorship, filtering and surveillance."
The era of the BlackBerry (or CrackBerry, its affectionate nickname) may be over, according to recent figures: In America, R.I.M’s share of the smartphone market fell to 41 percent in the first quarter, down from 55 percent last year. But its sales are still increasing overseas. If Dubai still wants to become the financial capital of the world, they’re going to have to embrace the CrackBerry.