05 August 2010

Indonesia to Ban Blackberries?

The United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia have moved to ban Blackberry messaging, email, and web browsing services. The belief is that the way Research In Motion (RIM), the owner of Blackberry technology, encrypts this information is a serious threat to security.

The suggestion is that terrorists can use Blackberries to wreak havoc and mayhem. Alternatively, this may just be a case of "big brother" wanting to ensure that it has access to every single thing that you do on your mobile.

Not wanting to be left behind in the draconian law stakes, Indonesia is mulling a ban on Blackberry services on the grounds of security. The Indonesian Telecommunication Regulation Authority (BRTI) will be taking the lead in determining whether a ban should be put into place. The idea of a ban is not surprising, and the "national security" card was expected at some point. The move to ban Blackberry services is just part of a much broader assault on the freedoms of ordinary Indonesians to go about their business without government interference.

It should not be to long before all houses are built with glass or perspex walls and curtains are banned in the interests of national security. After all, terrorists might plan their heinous crimes in darkened houses with drawn curtains, and heaven forbid (even with 72 virgins awaiting for some) we cannot have that!

But, on a more serious note, and Blackberry related, it is estimated that there are some 1.2 million Blackberry users in Indonesia. The vast majority of these users are law abiding citizens using their devices for business or pleasure (such as social networking or downloading Indonesian celebrity sex tapes). A ban on Blackberry is likely to encounter stiff resistance, and not only from those downloading porn, but from regular Indonesians who rely on Blackberry services to go about their business. The plan, if it is such, will also harm business and presumably impact on investment.

Interestingly, Barack Obama still uses his Blackberry. My guess is that the encryption services offered by RIM are only the tip of the iceberg on his Blackberry. I would reckon there were probably a couple of addition layers of encryption and other unknown state-of-the-art security features attached to his device.

As an aside, I will need to do a little research. It was not all that long ago that Indonesia was talking about ousting RIM and Blackberry from Indonesia by banning the devices (aka smartphones) if RIM did not open a representative office in Indonesia and go about setting up a mirror site in Indonesia to improve services and decrease end costs to Blackberry users. The research relates to whether that ever went ahead, as my understanding is that there is not a mirror site. I have not read about RIM opening a representative office. I do recall I wrote about this before, so I guess I go back into the RAB files and see what I can come up with.

Anyway, to all my Indonesian followers, friends, and colleagues who are Blackberry users....Big Brother is coming!


H. Nizam said...

Hi Rob,
Very interesting.
Current MUI's Arab oriented leaders might inspired to issue a fatwa banning BB, but I don't the govt. would do that.

Rob Baiton said...

@ Harry...

Now, there you go! But, I do not think the MUI needs any encouragement ;)

Apparently, TitS has been out today saying that it won't happen.

Gustave said...

These guys don't understand technology. SMS messages can be encrypted, so you need to ban all phones that can do SMS. email can be set to SSL on most new phones. So you need to ban those to. What do you have left?

Rob Baiton said...

@ Gustave...

Well, you never know!

That might be the plan, to ban all technology altogether ;)

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