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BlackBerry users mull effect as service curbs loom
All three countries have cited concerns the phones’ security features could be misused by terrorists and criminals, though they have not always made clear what specific concessions they’re seeking. Other countries, including Lebanon and Indonesia, are also taking a closer look at the devices. The proposed bans all apply to data services, not phone calls, meaning BlackBerry handsets would still be allowed in the countries.
While free-speech advocates have criticized the crackdowns, a number of BlackBerry users say they understand the governments’ concerns.
“It’s important for things to be traceable,” said Brad Kollur, 33, an IT consultant who lives in Rockaway, New Jersey, and often travels to India on business. “It’s one of those things where you give up certain comforts for the greater good.”
RIM has declined to discuss details of its negotiations with regulators. It says it tries to cooperate with countries’ legal and national security needs, and has “a consistent global standard for lawful access requirements that does not include special deals for specific countries.”
Still, some users are urging the company to do more.
“Please, BlackBerry, adjust whatever you have to … and honor the security requests of the government,” said Manoj Warrier, who runs an IT consulting business in New Jersey. “It’s a very good product. … The company should give a little and get a little in return.”
Warrier uses his BlackBerry to keep up with employees and clients in India, Saudi Arabia, Dubai and elsewhere. He’s so devoted to the brand that he refuses to switch carriers or devices, and he plans to postpone a business trip to those places next month if the controversy isn’t resolved.
There are alternatives, of course.
Nokia Corp. is among the manufacturers that sell smart phones with e-mail, Web browsing and other office tools _ none of which raise the ire of Mideast and Indian regulators. The iPhone and a number of handsets running Google Inc.’s Android software offer those features too.
“We would equip our employees with alternative devices if there should be any major change,” said Michael Grabicki, a spokesman for the German chemical company BASF SE.
These other devices, however, don’t rely on the same type of sophisticated encryption that appears to have raised concerns, meaning they also don’t offer the same level of security that many businesses find crucial.
And although business travelers would also still be able to use laptops for e-mail if BlackBerry service bans go into effect, juggling a computer while holding a cup of coffee is far more difficult than thumbing through messages on a palm-sized smart phone.
“At the end of the day you can also pick up the phone and call” business contacts, said Australian BlackBerry user Emad Soliman, a designer at a furniture factory in the Emirati capital, Abu Dhabi.
Besides, say some BlackBerry users, there could be a bright side to government-imposed crackdowns _ especially for those who see the gadgets less as a convenience and more as a tether to bosses back home.
“I just won’t answer my work e-mail,” said Jeet Sohal, who was heading to Dubai from London for a family vacation, when asked about the looming bans. The 40-year-old, who works for a British cafe chain, added: “That’s not such a bad thing.”
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