Is Saudi Arabia on the verge of banning applications like Skype, WhatsApp, and Viber? Arab News reports that it seems possible. The Saudi government, through its Communications and Information Technology Commission, is expressing concern that it cannot monitor what’s being transmitted through these communication channels. It fears their misuse, both terroristic and salacious (for the Saudi standard of ‘salacious’) and has threatened to block or ban the applications if their owners do not provide a key to their encryption.
This isn’t going down well with the myriad people who rely on the services to keep in touch with their families. Whether it’s Indian laborers or Saudi students studying abroad, these channels provide a way to maintain close relationships while actually being thousands of kilometers apart.
Skype faces ban in Saudi Arabia
JEDDAH: RIMA AL-MUKHTAR
WhatsApp, Viber and Skype users in the Kingdom face the risk of being barred from these applications if the owners of these communication platforms do not provide a monitoring server by the end of this week.
The Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) is threatening blockage of programs and applications that provide conversation and visual communication because they use encrypted connections, an Arabic daily reported.
According to two informed sources who work at local telecommunication companies, this issue has been at the top of the agenda of discussions during meetings between heads of telecom companies and the CITC over the past 20 days. The meetings have finally concluded with the CITC demanding that it be allowed to monitor the encrypted applications. In addition, officials from the CITC have cautioned that they might block these programs if they fail to reach an acceptable solution with the owners.
In an initial reaction to the news, both Saudi and non-Saudi users have expressed anger and annoyance, as some of the applications that might be halted have become vital conduits of communication between family and friends.