Worries about spying by the U.S. and Israel spurred plans to sharply limit BlackBerry services in the United Arab Emirates, Dubai's police chief said in comments that suggest a tough line in talks with the smartphone maker.
The U.A.E. says it will block BlackBerry email, messaging and web services starting Oct. 11 unless authorities can gain access to the devices' encrypted data traffic — a demand by other countries warning of possible bans, including India.
The proposed U.A.E. action threatens BlackBerry service for an estimated 500,000 local subscribers and could tarnish the country's reputation as the Gulf's business and tourism hub, with potentially millions of visitors left without key BlackBerry services.
Dubai's police chief, Lt.-Gen. Dahi Khalfan Tamim, said that fears of espionage and information sharing by foe Israel — as well as U.A.E. allies United States and Britain — helped prompt the threatened limits on the popular BlackBerry.
Tamim told a conference on information technology that the proposed BlackBerry curbs are also "meant to control false rumours and defamation of public figures due to the absence of surveillance," according to a story posted Friday on the website of the U.A.E. newspaper Al-Khaleej.
Tamim, whose remarks are often considered to reflect the views of Dubai's leadership, did not elaborate on the spying accusations in the article. He did not respond to calls by The Associated Press for further comment.
The police chief gained international attention as the point man in the probe into the January slaying in Dubai of a commander of the Palestinian militant group Hamas. Emirati officials have blamed the assassination on Israel's Mossad spy agency.
U.A.E. officials reportedly are still in talks with the BlackBerry's maker, Waterloo, Ont., Research in Motion Ltd. Tamim's comments, however, point to a hard line by Emirates security chiefs, who are demanding access to BlackBerry data.
BlackBerry traffic is encrypted and routed through servers operated by RIM. The company has said it would not disclose details of discussions with regulators in any of the more than 175 countries where it operates.
This week, India gave RIM a 60-day window to offer ways for authorities to monitor BlackBerry traffic. Saudi Arabia last month allowed BlackBerry services to continue, citing "positive developments" after talks with the company. It's unclear whether the Saudi reprieve is permanent.
Other countries such as Indonesia and Lebanon have also noted security worries about BlackBerry services.