Obama criticizes Middle East Blackberry ban

The Obama administration has criticized the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for threatening to ban certain BlackBerry smartphone services.

Indeed, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley noted the prosperous Gulf nation was setting a “dangerous precedent” by limiting freedom of information.

“We are committed to promoting the free flow of information,” Crowley explained in an official statement quoted by the Toronto Globe and Mail.

“We think it’s integral to an innovative economy.”

However, Emirati authorities claim the ban is based on legitimate security demands, as BlackBerry data is routinely transferred to RIM severs abroad.

The UAE’s concerns over data control has also been echoed by Saudi Arabia, which recently announced plans to ban select Blackberry smartphone services because it cannot monitor, access or restrict outgoing data. 

But RIM responded to threats of a looming Middle East Blackberry boycott by reiterating its long-standing policy of ensuring client security. 

“While RIM does not disclose confidential regulatory discussions that take place with any government, RIM assures its customers that it is committed to delivering highly secure and innovative products that satisfy the needs of both customers and governments.

“Governments have a wide range of resources and methodologies to satisfy national security and law enforcement needs without compromising commercial security requirements.”

The company also noted its network was configured so that “no one, including RIM, could access” encrypted customer data.

Unsurprisingly, the planned Blackberry ban has set off a firestorm of controversy in the Emirates.

“I think it’s a very big step back. All developed countries in the world have it. Why should we not?” asked Emirati BlackBerry user Maisoon al-Iskandarani, 24, who works at an international bank in Dubai. 

“How are you going to stay in touch with your clients and colleagues?”