Alcohol remains off limits, but it looks like Saudis will still be allowed to feed their Crackberry addiction after all. The Saudi government had said that it would begin blocking Blackberry's instant messaging services on Friday - claiming that by not being allowed to monitor messages, the popular devices and service from Canada's Research in Motion represented a national security risk to the Kingdom. That Friday deadline was extended to today, and then that extended deadline came and went without any reported disruption in service.
Then, just in the last few hours, comes news from the State Department that the Saudi government and RIM had reached a deal. It appears that RIM has installed three servers (one for each carrier operating in the country) in Saudi Arabia to meet the Kingdom's regulatory requirements.
If these reports are true, it would seem that RIM has acquiesced to the Kingdom's desire to essentially install a "Big Brother filter," allowing the government to monitor e-mails and instant messages in the name of preventing terrorism and other security risks.
Previously, RIM Co-Chief Executive Mike Lazaridis had expressed frustration in a Wall Street Journal story with the governments of Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region considering similar bans.
"This is about the Internet," Mr. Lazaridis said. "Everything on the Internet is encrypted. This is not a BlackBerry-only issue. If they can't deal with the Internet, they should shut it off."
The United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Lebanon, India, Indonesia, Tunisia and Algeria have all pressured RIM for access to Blackberry messaging recently, while Oman and Bahrain have said they will continue to allow unmonitored use. In the U.A.E a Blackberry ban appears to be a go starting in October , and word is that it applies to tourists and other visitors as well, so make alternate arrangements for texting on your next trip to Dubai.
No word yet on whether or not RIM has ordered any new servers to be shipped to the UAE before the October deadline...
Image by re-ality on Flickr. Used under a Creative Commons license.