updated 04:30 pm EDT, Sat August 7, 2010
BlackBerry Messenger server to go in Saudi Arabia
RIM has struck a rough agreement with Saudi Arabia to avert a BlackBerry Messenger ban, Saudi government agents said on Saturday. As rumored, the approach will put servers in Saudi Arabia that would give the local government the opportunity to monitor messages before they leave the country. The content would be decrypted for its time on the server but would reportedly be encrypted again, theoretically allowing only officials to monitor the content without exposing it to anyone else.
It's unclear whether RIM plans to use a similar approach to end the future total ban in the UAE and similar concerns from India, but RIM has previously said that it only implements solutions that it would be willing to offer worldwide.
No schedule yet exists for the server rollout.
The move is risky for RIM, whose joint CEO Mike Lazaridis has previously taken a hard line against spying. It has regularly boasted the tight security of virtually all BlackBerry traffic but, with local servers, could be seen as willingly compromising its safeguards to hold on to the money from valuable customers. Saudi Arabia has a disproportionately high number of BlackBerry owners at 700,000 and would be a significant loss if customers dropped away once features were missing.