Saudi Arabia’s telecoms regulator has threatened to block messaging apps such as Skype, WhatsApp and Viber over security concerns, according to Al Arabiya.
The Saudi Telecommunications and Information Technology Commission is pushing the country’s mobile operators to work with the app providers so that messaging can be monitored.
The operators have been given until the end of this week by the regulator to respond, the report said. If they do not come up with a means to enable surveillance then the regulator will consider blocking the apps altogether.
The situation looks like a rerun of the security crackdown initiated by the kingdom in 2010 when it insisted on accessing and monitoring the BlackBerry instant messaging service.
RIM (now BlackBerry) faced a wave of similar demands across the region and elsewhere including India for security services to access its IM services. At the time, it was suggested in India that Skype was also of concern to the authorities.
In the case of Saudi Arabia, the regulator’s approach appeared to work with BlackBerry.
However, the current situation has caused annoyance among users because the apps are popular as a low cost method for communicating with friends and families living abroad.