The Saudi government has given internet messenger application providers an ultimatum of one week to provide a monitoring service or face a ban across the Kingdom.
Skype, Viber and Whatsapp will likely face a ban if operators fail to allow authorities in the Kingdom to censor them and allow a monitoring server — industry sources said Monday.
Local telecommunication providers have been told to ask the operators of the messenger services to implement some method of control, an official at the kingdom’s Communications and Information Technology Commission said, requesting anonymity.
As reported by Al Arabiya, the commission has given the telecoms until the end of this week to respond. If the telecoms say it is impossible to monitor the applications, the commission said it might block them altogether within the Kingdom.
The applications use encrypted connections, allowing private and secure communications, attracting millions of users globally. In 2010, the Saudi Arabian government banned the use of Blackberry services on similar grounds claiming that the technology’s strong encryption hindered the government’s efforts to combat terrorism and criminal activity. The Saudi government demanded that they be given access to the Blackberry’s encrypted network.
As stated by an industry source, the motive for the ban lies in the applications free-of-charge services. The industry source has accused Saudi Telecommunications Co., Mobily and Zain of asking the Commission to impose the ban as the free services provided by the messenger applications negatively impact their businesses.
The initial reaction to the news from both Saudi and non-Saudi users, has been one of anger and annoyance, as some of the applications in question have become vital lines of communication between family and friends.
In the neighbouring UAE, most Skype applications and Viber are blocked, but WhatsApp messenger remains accessible.