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Starting this Friday, BlackBerry smartphones will no longer be able to send and receive wireless data in Saudi Arabia. The country has moved forward with its initial announcement, made earlier this week, to block the devices, reports Ars Technica.

The decision was made because Research in Motion, which manufactures the BlackBerry phones, wouldn’t comply with requests made by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to reveal encrypted customer data. BlackBerrys are particularly troublesome for the countries because much of their communications are encrypted and sent to servers in other countries. According to estimates, there are some 500,000 BlackBerry users in the UAE, and 400,000 in Saudi Arabia.

Amidst this news, U.S. authorities admitted today that they have the ability to tap BlackBerry user data (with the proper court orders), according to Reuters. Security experts say that other countries have the same capabilities. The news comes despite assurances from RIM that “no one, including RIM, could access” customer data — the company doesn’t have the keys to decrypt the secured data.

According to Mark Rasch, former head of the computer crimes unit at the U.S. Department of Justice, “The ability to tap communications is a part of surveillance and intelligence and law enforcement all over the world.”

It sounds as if RIM hasn’t actually helped the U.S. get access to data — U.S. authorities apparently just have better data decryption capabilities than the UAE or Saudi Arabia. We’ve sent a note about the wiretapping admission to RIM, requesting comment, and we’ll update when we hear back.


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