Encrypted messaging services such as Internet calling service Skype, Viber, smartphone messenger service WhatsApp and similar OTT messenger players could be blocked in Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi Telecommunications and Information Technology Commission has demanded that telecommunications companies VOIP based Skype, What’s App and Viber hand over access to their encrypted networks or face being banned in Saudi Arabiam, if operators fail to allow authorities in the kingdom to censor them. The companies have a week to respond as of Monday.
“The Communications and Information Technology Commission has requested companies operating the applications to meet the regulatory requirements to avoid their suspension in the kingdom,”
Another source at telecom operator Saudi Telecommunications Co. (STC) said the commission gave service providers one week ending on Saturday to respond, warning it would “take measures to ban them” if they failed to comply.
An industry source said telecom operators were behind the move, accusing the STC, along with Mobily and Zain, of asking the commission to impose censorship due to the “damage” caused by the free-of-charge applications.
The paper said that Saudi students on scholarships who use Skype to contact their parents are also disappointed.
“I really don’t understand what they mean by monitoring. Are they going to tap into the conversations I have with my mother and sister? Does that mean they are going to have to wear the veil when they open the camera for me?” Khalid Tunsi, a finance student in the US, wondered while talking to the Jeddah-based English daily.
“If they cut off these applications, it will make my life really difficult because with this technology I am able to see my mother every day,” he added.