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Dubai police chief calls BlackBerry a spy tool

By Associated Press
Friday, September 3, 2010 10:54 EDT
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Dubai police chief says planned Blackberry curbs linked to spy worries

Worries about spying by the U.S. and Israel spurred plans to sharply limit BlackBerry services in the United Arab Emirates, Dubai’s police chief said in comments that suggest a tough line in talks with the smart phone maker.

The UAE says it will block BlackBerry e-mail, messaging and Web services Oct. 11 unless authorities can gain access to the encrypted data traffic — a demand by other countries warning of possible bans including India.

The proposed UAE action threatens BlackBerry service for an estimated 500,000 local subscribers and could tarnish the country’s reputation as the Gulf’s business and tourism hub with potentially millions of visitors left without key BlackBerry services.

Dubai’s police chief, Lt. Gen. Dahi Khalfan Tamim, said that fears of espionage and information sharing by foe Israel — as well as UAE allies United States and Britain — helped prompt the possible limits on the popular BlackBerry.

Tamim told a conference on information technology that the proposed BlackBerry curbs are also “meant to control false rumors and defamation of public figures due to the absence of surveillance,” according to a story posted Friday on the website of the UAE newspaper Al-Khaleej.

Tamim, whose remarks are often considered to reflect the views of Dubai’s leadership, did not elaborate on the spying accusations in the article. He did not respond to calls by The Associated Press for further comment.

The police chief gained international attention as the pointman in the probe into the January slaying of a Hamas commander in Dubai, which Emirati officials have blamed on Israel’s Mossad spy agency.

UAE officials reportedly are still in talks with BlackBerry maker, Canada-based Research in Motion Ltd. Tamim’s comments, however, point to a hard line by Emirates security chiefs who demand access to BlackBerry data.

Blackberry traffic is encrypted and routed through servers operated by RIM. The company has said it would not disclose details of discussions with regulators in any of the more than 175 countries where it operates.

This week, India gave RIM a 60-day window to offer ways for authorities to monitor BlackBerry traffic. Saudi Arabia last month allowed BlackBerry services to continue, citing “positive developments” after talks with the company. It’s unclear whether the Saudi reprieve is permanent.

Other countries such as Indonesia and Lebanon have also noted security worries about BlackBerry services.

 
 
 
 
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