Saudis Give BlackBerry a Stay of Execution

Saudi Arabia halts ban on BlackBerrySaudi Arabia will not ban Research In Motion's (RIMM) BlackBerry -- for now. The Canadian company appears to have agreed to meet security requirements demanded by the Saudi government, although it is not yet clear what those requirements are. The kingdom is seeking access to BlackBerry communications so that it can monitor potentially illegal activities.

News of the truce came from the U.S. State Department, according to Bloomberg. "There are reports of an agreement between RIM and Saudi Arabia," State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley told reporters in Washington yesterday. He said department officials will meet with company executives later in the day. "We'll ask if it's true, for particulars on how it was reached. We'll see if we can't be of assistance."

RIM has several options that would allow Saudi authorities to monitor BlackBerry instant messages. The company could set up servers inside the kingdom to make it easier for authorities to track communications. It could also give the Saudis tools to monitor conversations and data originating in BlackBerry servers in Canada.

Some BlackBerry customers in the Middle East kingdom may object to the breach of privacy. It remains to be seen if such measures will decrease the number of subscribers in the country. The actions by RIM will certainly raise concerns about threats to freedom of speech.

Other nations, like the United Arab Emirates, which also want to monitor BlackBerry user data, are no doubt closely watching how this unfolds.

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