UAE follows through on BlackBerry threat

Following the UAE's recent admonition of BlackBerry smartphones, the country will prohibit three of BlackBerry's web operations starting on Oct. 11 -- e-mail, instant messaging between BlackBerry phones, and the web-browsing program -- citing security concerns. Later this month, Saudi Arabia will also ban instant messaging between BlackBerrys.

A Saudi official revealed that the move is intended to strong-arm Research-in-Motion, BlackBerry's Ontario-based company, into conceding information, which it has already done for Russia and China. In 2007, RIM provided its encryption keys to a Russian telecommunications agency, which then passed it to the Federal Security Service. A year later, RIM's handset came out in China, but was delayed because the company "needed to satisfy Beijing that its handsets posed no security threat to China's communication networks."

The ban won't be lifted "until these BlackBerry applications are in full compliance with UAE regulations;" and it comes at a time when countries all around the world, are attempting to restrict the many freedoms provided by the Internet.



The Swiss bank of Web hosts

Depending on who you talk to, Swedish Web host PRQ could be the Internet's equivalent of Mos Eisley -- a "wretched hive of scum and villainy" -- or a blessed underground haven for free speech. That's because it agrees to host practically anyone, from Chechen rebels to pedophile support leagues to everybody's favorite transparency organization, WikiLeaks. As Mashable called it last week, PRQ might as well be the Swiss bank of Internet providers.

Like real Swiss banks, PRQ's reputation rests on a "boundless" commitment to privacy and security. The firm, founded in 2004 by a small team of Internet warriors claiming to love the Internet and its possibilities for openness, stops short of publishing "very obviously illegal" content. But anything goes as long as it doesn't violate Swedish law, and the Web host claims to be prepared to take on bad press, crusading lawyers, boycotts -- even angry mobs.

Incidentally, PRQ is run by Gottfrid Svartholm and Fredrik Neij, the very same people who in 2004 launched a controversial file-sharing index, The Pirate Bay. Though the service merely aggregates links to copyrighted material rather than offering up the media itself, Svartholm and Neij were sentenced to a year in prison after being found guilty of assistance to copyright infringement in 2009. Since then, Sweden's Pirate Party (which holds a single seat in the European Parliament) has offered to take WikiLeaks off PRQ's hands. The political party already hosts The Pirate Bay.

With so many options out there, it's a wonder al Qaeda's Inspire magazine is still a print-only operation.

m.a.r.c. /