updated 10:05 am EDT, Fri August 6, 2010
Saudi Arabia acts on BBM ban promise
Saudi Arabia acted on its planned ban of BlackBerry Messenger services on Friday and shut off access to RIM's instant chats. The block came after officials were unable to get monitoring of BBM conversations. The restriction is tightly enforced and will see any carrier fined the equivalent of $1.3 million if it disobeys.
Unlike the future UAE ban, e-mail and web access won't be blocked. The Saudi government hasn't explained its reasons, but with over 700,000 BlackBerry users, officials may be hoping to avoid an upset of businesspeople and others that depend heavily on RIM's phones.
Suspicions have been raised that the government is concerned about BBM being used for relationships in the very traditional state. As the messages are encrypted, couples can talk to each other in private where social taboos would prevent it in public.
Plans or discussions of BlackBerry bans, in part or in whole, have sprung up in a matter of days and have seen Lebanon and now Algeria at least raise concerns over the service. Much of RIM's service is not only encrypted but implemented in a way that the company itself can't crack. Locks on communications are end-to-end and see only the sender and recipient get the decryption keys. As such, RIM might have the option of pointing to a message but can't necessarily decipher the message or identify the phones and users involved.