Image via WikipediaWhy does all the fun happen when I'm away? Woke up today to the news that the UAE is to block BlackBerry Messenger, BlackBerry E-mail and BlackBerry web-browsing following a ruling by telecom regulator the TRA.
Gulf News online reports the story, which WAM broke today as far as I can see from over here. The National's story is here. Etisalat has made a statement which includes the immortal words, "BlackBerry data is immediately exported off-shore, where it is managed by a foreign, commercial organisation."
Oh, the LOLs, from a country where all requests to browse the web are immediately referenced to, errr, foreign, commercial organisations. Unless something's changed since the McAfee acquisition, US security company Secure Computing used to parse all searches to make sure that we weren't being exposed to all the naughtiness and stuff that's out there. We weren't so shy about 'foreign commercial organisations' then, were we folks?
BlackBerry customers were, infamously, not subject to the arbitrary restrictions of the block list. Many will remember the furore that erupted, extensively discussed on this very blog, which appeared to be a muckle-headed attempt on the part of the Telco That Likes To Say Ugh, Etisalat, to cludge security software intended for other purposes into an attempt to introduce surveillance and monitoring capabilities to the otherwise hard to intercept BB.
It's interesting for telecom regulation watchers that the customer is to be harmed extensively as a result of this move by a regulator, a class of organisation that is everywhere in the world tasked with holding the customers interests as one of its primary goals. The Telcos are being forced to breach their compact with their users (The vast majority of people bought BlackBerrys precisely with this very functionality as their primary reason for buying in) and tens of thousands of devices have been rendered basically unfit for purpose overnight.
I look forward to this move being 'clarified'. As it stands, it's yet another attempt to bomb ourselves back into the digital stone age. The madness of it all is that nothing has changed about the BlackBerry or the way in which the device works - and nothing has changed (correct me, please, if I'm wrong) in the 'moral and cultural' environment, or indeed the regulatory environment, since the BB was first introduced to the UAE - it has always worked using the company's own servers which underpinned the very services that CrackBerry users find so very appealing. If you can't live with it now - you shouldn't have sold it to us back then.
Will customers be offered refunds for the now barely functional hunks of black and chrome plastic they hold in their hands? Or will Etisalat and Du be offering free plastic covers that say 'I am browsing happily. Carry on as normal.'???
PS: In a move that appears to highlight that this move is being prompted by security concerns more than anything else, WAM has published an odd document that purports to 'compare the existing telecom regulations of the US, UK and UAE' but which is actually something of a 'dossier' that appears intended to justify the idea that a regulator can just turn around and delete a service being accessed by tens of thousands of consumers. It's a long read, but it's here.
Right. I'm going back on holiday...