BlackBerry gets boost in Bahrain

Steve Dinneen
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BAHRAIN yesterday ruled out banning BlackBerry mobile phones just hours before a crunch decision is expected by nearby Saudi Arabia.

The Persian Gulf island says it maintains concerns over the security risk posed by the device, made by Canadian firm Research In Motion (RIM), but would not make sharing information using the phone illegal.

Last week the UAE took the drastic step of banning the smartphone’s email and instant messaging services after an ongoing row over the way RIM encrypts users’ data. The encryption makes it difficult for security forces to read messages and emails but RIM says it is simply respecting the privacy of its customers.

Saudi has deferred a decision on whether to follow suit until tonight while mobile operators test a system that could keep both sides happy. This would allegedly allow Saudi authorities some access to users’ data.

However, RIM has publicly maintained it will not bow to pressure to share the information.

The UAE ban will officially come into play in October but some network providers are already restricting the services available on BlackBerrys. An estimated 1.2m users – or 2.6 per cent of RIM’s user base – will be affected by the ban.

The encryption row overshadowed the launch of the firm’s latest handset, the critically acclaimed BlackBerry Torch, last week.