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Saudi Arabia Set To Ban WhatsApp, Skype

timothy posted about a year ago | from the and-clear-envelopes-only-please dept.

Censorship 122

Reuters reports that Saudi Arabia's government, after banning Viber within the kingdom, is poised to prohibit at least two other such communication apps: Skype and WhatsApp. Says the article: "Conventional international calls and texts are a lucrative earner for telecom operators in Saudi Arabia, which hosts around nine million expatriates. These foreign workers are increasingly using Internet-based applications such as Viber to communicate with relatives in other countries, analysts say." With fewer legal options, a wide-scale Internet censorship regime would be easier to implement, too.

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Not in the land of the Free (0, Troll)

hamvil (1186283) | about a year ago | (#44026797)

Of course this could never happen in the land of the free

Re:Not in the land of the Free (5, Insightful)

kaptink (699820) | about a year ago | (#44026847)

What is this land you speak of?

Re:Not in the land of the Free (5, Insightful)

davester666 (731373) | about a year ago | (#44026857)

Finland.

Is that where.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44027045)

all those fin-harvested japanese sharks go to retire?

Re:Not in the land of the Free (0)

jonfr (888673) | about a year ago | (#44027491)

No, Finland is not free. They are under Copyright dictatorship.

Re:Not in the land of the Free (2)

hamvil (1186283) | about a year ago | (#44026879)

Any land where people consider themselves free. Free of governments breaking into their privacy, free of corporations tracking their movements, free of being considered guilty until proven innocent. Fell free to run a filter on this planet's countries and check if there is any match.

Re:Not in the land of the Free (5, Funny)

LQ (188043) | about a year ago | (#44026981)

There's a very old joke.
Hijacker: take this plane to a free country.
Pilot: this is a airliner, not a fucking spaceship.

Re:Not in the land of the Free (1)

CrackedButter (646746) | about a year ago | (#44027325)

Iceland.

Re:Not in the land of the Free (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year ago | (#44031637)

What is this land you speak of?

U \ {Earth} ?

Re:Not in the land of the Free (2)

rasmusbr (2186518) | about a year ago | (#44027049)

Of course this could never happen in the land of the free

Well, that's true, it couldn't. Freedom is being able to be wiretapped in whichever app or service you chose...

Privacy, by the way, is the right to keep a lawful secret between you and the government.

I'm not the first one to point this out, but sometimes wonder if one way to read the two most famous dystopian novels is to read Brave New World as a prequel to 1984.

Re:Not in the land of the Free (3, Insightful)

hamvil (1186283) | about a year ago | (#44027093)

Privacy, by the way, is the right to keep a lawful secret between you and the government.

No, it is not. Privacy is the right to decide what to expose and to whom to expose it. Governments should find proof of unlawful behavior without having to break into an individual privacy sphere. I'm sure that with 24/7 surveillance we could find a lot of illegal behaviors such as . This does not mean that a gov of a free country should do it.

Re:Not in the land of the Free (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44028467)

I believe the parent was speaking ironically in both of his first two lines. Woosh.

kill them all (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44026803)

kill all muslims, exterminate them all

Re:kill them all (1, Troll)

Chrisq (894406) | about a year ago | (#44027057)

I hate Islam as much as anyone who treasures freedom and abhors discrimination, but this is not the answer. There are some people who are only Muslims because leaving Islam is punishable by death, by law in most Islamic countries and in practice by "honour killings" throughout the world. Ideally all Muslims would realise that Islam is just the ravings of a power-mad pedophile war lord and has no place in a civilised world

Re:kill them all (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44027247)

Yeah, cause none of that happens in other religions. No honor killings in Sikhism or Hinduism, certainly no power-mad pedophiles in Christianity. No discrimination, no death penalties, no subjugation in Judaism. Really, all of the Abrahamic faiths can go to the Hell they invented.

Re:kill them all (4, Informative)

Chrisq (894406) | about a year ago | (#44027273)

Well from Worldwide Trends in Honor Killings [meforum.org] :

Although Sikhs and Hindus do sometimes commit such murders, honor killings, both worldwide and in the West, are mainly Muslim-on-Muslim crimes. In this study, worldwide, 91 percent of perpetrators were Muslims.

So, yes there are some evil Hindu and Sikhs, but it is not entrenched as a specific commandment in the religion like in Islam

Re:kill them all (1)

3.5 stripes (578410) | about a year ago | (#44027337)

I'd say a good number of the Islamic, Hindu and Sihk honor killings are due to the practitioners living in hugely patriarchal countries, the religion came second.. it would be like looking at the southern US and saying that all Christians are obviously end of times gun nuts.

Re:kill them all (3, Informative)

Chrisq (894406) | about a year ago | (#44027405)

I'd say a good number of the Islamic, Hindu and Sihk honor killings are due to the practitioners living in hugely patriarchal countries, the religion came second.. it would be like looking at the southern US and saying that all Christians are obviously end of times gun nuts.

You'd be wrong, check the linked article it is frequently carried out second and third generation Islamic immigrants in Western countries.

Re:kill them all (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44027911)

Could it be that the reason why the article is able to point out that they are carried out in western societies, is because;
1) Those western societies are unfamiliar with the practice, and thus find it abhorant enough to make it to the news
2) Said western societies actually have a news organisation to report these matters, instead of them taking place in some backwaters hill village in the middle of nowhere.

You will probably find just as many honour killings occur in the original countries too.

Re:kill them all (2)

Chrisq (894406) | about a year ago | (#44028089)

Could it be that the reason why the article is able to point out that they are carried out in western societies, is because;
1) Those western societies are unfamiliar with the practice, and thus find it abhorant enough to make it to the news
2) Said western societies actually have a news organisation to report these matters, instead of them taking place in some backwaters hill village in the middle of nowhere.

You will probably find just as many honour killings occur in the original countries too.

Absolutely, honour killings count as normal behaviour in Islamic countries. I was just refuting the assertion that people carried out "honour killings" because they came from backward countries rather than because they were following the teachings of Islam

Re:kill them all (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44028431)

Absolutely, honour killings count as normal behaviour in Islamic countries. I was just refuting the assertion that people carried out "honour killings" because they came from backward countries rather than because they were following the teachings of Islam

He said "patriarchal countries" shit head not "backward". Just because a bunch of fucked up men twist around their religion, doesnt mean the entire population following it should be condemned nor the religion be disgraced! I dont see how you are any better than they are with regards to tolerance!

Re:kill them all (1)

Chrisq (894406) | about a year ago | (#44028815)

Absolutely, honour killings count as normal behaviour in Islamic countries. I was just refuting the assertion that people carried out "honour killings" because they came from backward countries rather than because they were following the teachings of Islam

He said "patriarchal countries" shit head not "backward".

OK, so you don't consider highly patriarchal countries to be backward. I do.

Just because a bunch of fucked up men twist around their religion, doesnt mean the entire population following it should be condemned nor the religion be disgraced!

Yes this is exactly what I said about their being some Hindus and Sikhs. I could also add Christians [guardian.co.uk] . However Islam is unique in that it is a command of the religion:

Sahi Muslim No. 4206:
“A woman came to the prophet and asked for purification by seeking punishment. He told her to go away and seek God’s forgiveness. She persisted four times and admitted she was pregnant. He told her to wait until she had given birth. Then he said that the Muslim community should wait until she had weaned her child. When the day arrived for the child to take solid food, Muhammad handed the child over to the community. And when he had given command over her and she was put in a hole up to her breast, he ordered the people to stone her. Khalid b. al-Walid came forward with a stone which he threw at her head, and when the blood spurted on her face he cursed her.”

I dont see how you are any better than they are with regards to tolerance!

Because I don't advocate subduing those of other faiths, killing people who change faith, killing relatives for honour, etc.

Re:kill them all (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44029167)

I dont see how you are any better than they are with regards to tolerance!

Because I don't advocate subduing those of other faiths, killing people who change faith, killing relatives for honour, etc.

Of course! You only condemn EVERYBODY following that faith. Sure u r totally not intolerant!

Re:kill them all (1)

Chrisq (894406) | about a year ago | (#44029339)

I dont see how you are any better than they are with regards to tolerance!

Because I don't advocate subduing those of other faiths, killing people who change faith, killing relatives for honour, etc.

Of course! You only condemn EVERYBODY following that faith. Sure u r totally not intolerant!

Of course I condemn everybody following a faith that calls for the subjugation and murder of others. I acknowledge that there may be some nominal Muslims who only call themselves that because of the death penalty for leaving, and I don't condemn these.

Re:kill them all (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44029497)

There are also those who understand the religion in its entirety and not use it to their own advantage wrecking other people's lives, yet following it peacefully the way it was meant to be followed. But of course opinionated men like you would not understand that... Just like those other men. And just like them, you choose specific portions of a text to site as examples in order to defend your own opinion/actions- just the way they use it to spread their propaganda. If only people would stop pointing fingers at each other and start practicing tolerance in their own character first, this world would be a lot more peaceful to live in.

Re:kill them all (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44029377)

It is also interesting to see how you have taken an issue regarding a ban on unpaid internet communication (which in the end might as well turn out to be just a business strategy) and turned it into an anti-islamic/religious propaganda just because it comes from an arab country... of course issues like PRISM apparently dont matter! To believe in something is a person's own individual right... taking away their right to privacy and freedom is nobody's right!!! Well developed countries with well educated people- religious or non religious- are no better.

Re:kill them all (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44027433)

And why are those countries so hugely patriarchal? Why are women initially placed on a pedestal of purity, and in a moment dragged down and stabbed to death? Why are the majority of reported honour killings happening among Muslim populations across many countries (including the west).

Christ, the foundations of this practice are enshrined in Sharia when women are treated like chattel and punished for not seeing the world through cloth. Tell men that women must be subservient to them, and that women have little say as to how their bodies are used. Surprised then when some hairy armed unibrow is busy stabbing his sister to death for bring shame upon the family (irony lost upon him).

Re:kill them all (2)

chilvence (1210312) | about a year ago | (#44027241)

Aside from this basically being what the fucking nazi's were all about, it's an unbelievably retarded point of view to have given that the majority of muslims genuinely AREN'T trying to bother anyone. If they actually were, believe me you would fucking know about it.

Re:kill them all (1)

Nerdfest (867930) | about a year ago | (#44027263)

Weren't the Nazis really more about killing or subjugating everyone who was not a Nazi? That actually sounds a lot like Islam as well, according to its 'holy books'.

Re:kill them all (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44027543)

if you knew anything about Islam you would know that it has only one "holy book" :)
but there you are - in the land of the free - and totally uninformed :))

Re:kill them all (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44027669)

f you knew anything about Islam you would know that it has only one "holy book" :)

Really ?

What do you call the Hadiths ? Unholy bullshit ?

Re:kill them all (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44028003)

Tawrat, Zabur, Injil and the Quran. I count 4

Re:kill them all (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44028371)

Tawrat, Zabur, Injil and the Quran. I count 4

The Quran is the only Holy book... the rest including the Hadith are not.

Re:kill them all (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44029473)

More paper to wipe my ass with your filthy mooslum dogs.

Re:kill them all (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44030653)

if you knew anything about Islam you would know that it has only one "holy book" :) but there you are - in the land of the free - and totally uninformed :))

And if only you knew what's in that 'holy Quran' [skepticsan...dbible.com]

Popularity (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44026805)

My roomate is from Saudi and he has mentioned to me on several occasions that WhatsApp is incredibly popular there. Everyone he knows uses it, including older family members. Banning something so popular would upset a lot of people...

Re:Popularity (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44026895)

Like the Saudi "government" care about that....

Re:Popularity (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44026913)

Actually the SA government care very much what people think at the moment, because they don't want the Arab Spring to spread to them. Of course the basket case that is Syria right now is a good reason for most people to be adverse to it.

The biggest users of these apps are the Pakistani migrant workers who can't afford to pay telco prices to contact their families. This will certainly hit them hard.

Re:Popularity (2)

DougF (1117261) | about a year ago | (#44028619)

As someone who lives and works in Saudi Arabia...yes to both. The app is very popular and the Saudi government is treading carefully on this. This has been in the local news for several months now, as the government gauges local reaction and gives the app's owners time to decide on whether to cooperate. I use WhatsApp, but I have a backup plan in case access is terminated. I don't use Skype, so that won't affect me, but lots of people do use it. The government is prepping the population for the cutoff with stories about security, terrorists passing messages, etc. The Saudis have two large security problems. First, in the Eastern Province with Shi'as and their backing from Iran. Second, they also have a large illegal worker problem, stemming from two sources: those who overstay their work visas, and those (mostly Africans) who cross the border with Yemen (sound familiar?). In order to get a handle on the issue, the Saudi government is cracking down on phones operated by illegals so they cannot find work or tell others about work. They do this by requiring cell phone owners use a national identity number or authorized foreign worker number whenever activating cell phones or re-charging accounts. Part and parcel are the communication programs such as WhatsApp and Skype used by illegals and Iranian agents so the government cannot track their locations and movements.

Re:Popularity (5, Interesting)

Camembert (2891457) | about a year ago | (#44026953)

Not exactly a comment on the original story, just saying that Whatsapp is also tremendously popular here in South-East Asia. I use it very often, It is a popular and easy solution to set up group discussions, transfer pictures etc. I had already read in newspapers that telcos here are not so happy about its popularity but luckily there is little that they can do about it.

Re:Popularity (1)

BrokenHalo (565198) | about a year ago | (#44027291)

...telcos here are not so happy about its popularity but luckily there is little that they can do about it.

Exactly. I don't really see how they think they can prevent people using Skype or Whatsapp.

Re:Popularity (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | about a year ago | (#44027419)

Easy - Saudi already has a national firewall filter thing. They just add Skype and Whatever else to the block list.

Re:Popularity (1)

UnknownSoldier (67820) | about a year ago | (#44029543)

> I don't really see how they think they can prevent people

That's easy:

Only cowards use censorship.

Surveillance state (3, Insightful)

vikingpower (768921) | about a year ago | (#44026811)

When a regime begins using such methods as these in order to keep sitting in the saddle, its days are counted. After the demise of Saudi Arabia's current regime, within a foreseeable time now, the ensuing chaos will be unimaginable.

Re:Surveillance state (3, Insightful)

SpaghettiPattern (609814) | about a year ago | (#44027175)

Don't underestimate the Saudi regime. It's not it is new to oppression. They are experienced. These steps make organising by the mass harder.

Re:Surveillance state (2)

rioki (1328185) | about a year ago | (#44028669)

I am not sure if this is an attempt at censorship. This smells more like a case of the government helping out with corporate interests.

Skype has point and click NSA surveillance (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44027369)

We now know that Skype is accessible from PRISM, and thanks to the Senator we know that they don't need a warrant, every analyst can spy on any phone the country on a whim. The same classification for voice intercepts is for VOIP content, and we also know that Skype surveillance is point and click from the PRISM leak.

So NO COUNTRY SHOULD PERMIT SKYPE, any NSA analyst can intercept it simply on a whim with a point and click.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/us-intelligence-mining-data-from-nine-us-internet-companies-in-broad-secret-program/2013/06/06/3a0c0da8-cebf-11e2-8845-d970ccb04497_story_3.html

There has been “continued exponential growth in tasking to Facebook and Skype,” according to the PRISM slides. With a few clicks and an affirmation that the subject is believed to be engaged in terrorism, espionage or nuclear proliferation, an analyst obtains full access to Facebook’s “extensive search and surveillance capabilities against the variety of online social networking services.”

According to a separate “User’s Guide for PRISM Skype Collection,” that service can be monitored for audio when one end of the call is a conventional telephone and for any combination of “audio, video, chat, and file transfers” when Skype users connect by computer alone. Google’s offerings include Gmail, voice and video chat, Google Drive files, photo libraries, and live surveillance of search terms.

Re:Surveillance state (1)

khallow (566160) | about a year ago | (#44027615)

After the demise of Saudi Arabia's current regime, within a foreseeable time now, the ensuing chaos will be unimaginable.

I don't really have any trouble imagining the supposedly unimaginable. From the rest of the world's point of view, it'll be a considerable disruption of global oil supply possibly with a bit of domino toppling of neighboring governments over subsequent years. In other words, the mid to late 70s revisited.

Re:Surveillance state (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44027753)

>When a regime begins using such methods as these in order to keep sitting in the saddle, its days are counted.

Corn subsidies. Oil subsidies. Legal monopolies for power companies. etc. It turns out that countries don't collapse when the people in power work to keep the rich making money.

Re:Surveillance state (1)

magic maverick (2615475) | about a year ago | (#44027865)

Meh, it's easy to imagine it. Just look at Arabia between 1900 and 1925. A mess of tribes all vying for control. And sooner or later one will get up and take over.

Re:Surveillance state (2)

sociocapitalist (2471722) | about a year ago | (#44030769)

When a regime begins using such methods as these in order to keep sitting in the saddle, its days are counted. After the demise of Saudi Arabia's current regime, within a foreseeable time now, the ensuing chaos will be unimaginable.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is not 'beginning' to use such methods. Repression is the rule there and always has been.

DON'T CARE (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44026817)

Fuck saudi arabia...

3rd world shithole will always be a 3rd world shithole...

Why.. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44026839)

I don't see you yanks spreading freedom in the saudi?

Re:Why.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44026991)

Its probably muslim terrorists. At least thats what we use as excuse for censorship and surveillance.

Re:Why.. (1)

nickmh (2496180) | about a year ago | (#44027259)

Your kidding. The yanks (in fact the entire so called "Free" world) are coming to realise their freedoms have been white-anted as well. Not long now... tick tick tick

Re:Why.. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44027283)

Uh-huh - and what is your track record? How many oppressed peoples have you freed? You can't even free your head from your boyfriend's shorts to get a breath of fresh air.

Re:Why..BS Brit Comment Above! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44027727)

Well, you Brits caused the messy and deadly situation in the Middle East that we have now. It, as with many other "empire" and "colonial" problems, remain at your doorstep.
The irony is that after destroying the Turkish empire you have become allies with the Turkish government (through NATO and Brit-to-Turk aliances) that is just as bad as the Saudi. You changed Turkey for the worse--and you complain about the US? Hypocrite.
(Disclaimer: I am of UK descendent--only my folks rebelled and won their independence from the atrocity called Britain; I know about your dastardly tactics and strategies.)

Re:Why.. (1)

coolsnowmen (695297) | about a year ago | (#44028199)

Consider learning then. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saudi_Arabia%E2%80%93United_States_relations [wikipedia.org]
    They let the US build air bases there (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_United_States_Army_installations_in_Saudi_Arabia)
    They public support US, and the US has a good economic relationship with them. You want the US to invade over them threatening to ban an App? after they just sold a 60billion$ arms package to them! The US would lose soldiers to their own weapons, how do you think that would play domestically?!

AC FOR DIMPLIMAT OF THE YEAR- I don't think so.

Re:Why.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44029089)

Would you Rob the damn petrol(gas) station or whatever you brits call it you buy from on a regular basis????

Re:Why.. (1)

sociocapitalist (2471722) | about a year ago | (#44030783)

I don't see you yanks spreading freedom in the saudi?

That's because we're too busy suppressing freedom in our own country.

Ah, and because we like Saudi oil.

tech tax (1)

perryizgr8 (1370173) | about a year ago | (#44026863)

looks like its time for another payment from Microsoft!

Isn't WhatsApp owner an ex SPY? (1)

citizenr (871508) | about a year ago | (#44026871)

Skype with M$/NSA at the helm is not better.

Cat & mouse game will continue... (5, Informative)

Bearhouse (1034238) | about a year ago | (#44026929)

This has been going on for a long time - Skype was banned or crippled in the UAE for a long time, but recently unblocked:

http://english.alarabiya.net/en/business/technology/2013/04/08/Etisalat-unblocks-Skype-website-in-the-UAE.html [alarabiya.net]

At the time, it was more about securing revenue from the lucrative expat market than locking-down protest movements.
Of course, these latter do exist, but less so in Saudi & UAE than, say, Egypt.

I guess this latest move will just drive more interest in alternatives, which are often 'open' and perhaps more secure...

http://www.pidgin.im/ [pidgin.im]

http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/fed-up-with-skype-here-are-6-of-the-best-free-alternatives/ [makeuseof.com]

Re:Cat & mouse game will continue... (1)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | about a year ago | (#44027287)

Those subversive open source alternatives! They keep cropping up - regimes around the world are going to have to ban open source!

Re:Cat & mouse game will continue... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44027443)

Mumble [sourceforge.net] isn't all that bad either if you just want a voice chat with low bandwidth and low overhead. (Meant for gaming, but who really cares?) You can easily host your own chat server and it's encrypted to some degree by default.

Re:Cat & mouse game will continue... (1)

jma05 (897351) | about a year ago | (#44029763)

The problem with the current open source alternatives is that while they cover all desktop platforms, they don't do mobile messaging, much less cross-platform mobile messaging.

Free and open source messaging alternatives (4, Informative)

trawg (308495) | about a year ago | (#44026951)

Apropos of absolutely nothing, here's some open source alternatives that also offer encryption (YMMV on how robust the encryption is).

- Jitsi [jitsi.org] (formerly SIP Communicator) is an audio/video and chat communicator that supports protocols such as SIP, XMPP/Jabber as well as a bunch of other protocols. Set up an XMPP server wherever you want and you're done. (I tried to set up Jabber to use with it on a Linux box on the weekend though and hit a few roadblocks, but more tech savvy people can probably power through them.)

- Mumble [sourceforge.net] - voice communications, intended primarily for gaming but will work with anything. Run your own voice servers and clients connect in, a la TeamSpeak/Ventrilo.

- RetroShare [sourceforge.net] - decentralised p2p file sharing and messaging system.

Re:Free and open source messaging alternatives (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about a year ago | (#44027575)

I've been writing my own. Not because I expect it to be used, but because it's a good way to learn how these things work.

Re:Free and open source messaging alternatives (1)

Rob the Bold (788862) | about a year ago | (#44028149)

I've been writing my own. Not because I expect it to be used, but because it's a good way to learn how these things work.

And easier than getting Ekiga properly configured.

Re:Free and open source messaging alternatives (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about a year ago | (#44030451)

My little project is actually quite fun. The clients authenticate each other via public key (4096-bit RSA), so there is no central authentication or identity server. The control packets are all essentially random if you don't have both the keys (sender's public and recipient's private) to decrypt them with, so even DPI couldn't identify and block the protocol. I need to get a real crypto expert to look through the design and make sure I've not missed anything obvious (Cryptography is an easy thing to do badly), but I've handled things like reply attacks (timestamp!) and bouncing to spoof source address. The protocol is even IPv6-ready.

The bit I'm writing doesn't actually do the IM. It's a distributed address lookup and authentication service. An IM program can then utilise this service to handle the troublesome matter of remaining in contact with people as they move around and their IP changes.

It's all about thought control (5, Insightful)

Camael (1048726) | about a year ago | (#44027025)

Q: Why would Saudi Arabia ban communication tools such as Viber, Whatsapp and Skype?

A: Because they have no control or access to the messages passed with these apps.

According to TFA, Viber was blocked for non-compliance, and that WhatsApp and Skype may be next on the list. What is most interesting is that the regulator issued a directive in March saying tools such as Viber, WhatsApp and Skype broke local laws, without specifying which laws.

What we do know is that in 2010, Blackberry was also banned by Saudi Arabia [techcrunch.com] . The reason behind the ban was because BBM did not allow their customers' exchanges to be monitored by government. The ban was lifted after BB made a deal with the government to share user data.

Skype, Viber and WhatsApp AFAIK do not share their user data (for now).

Why has Saudi Arabia become emboldened to act now? Because the disclosure of the PRISM program makes them immune from international criticism. They can rightly point out that the US government already has access to the data. It shouldn't take long for other countries to follow suit with similar demands.

Re:It's all about thought control (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44027125)

They may simply be trying to protect their citizens from PRISM. At least some of who may be engaging in activities that would be embarrassing to the Saudis if the US found out...

Re:It's all about thought control (4, Insightful)

gsslay (807818) | about a year ago | (#44027165)

QFT. Mod parent up.

Why has Saudi Arabia become emboldened to act now? Because the disclosure of the PRISM program makes them immune from international criticism. They can rightly point out that the US government already has access to the data. It shouldn't take long for other countries to follow suit with similar demands.

All countries involved with PRISM have waved goodbye to any moral high ground they ever had any claim to. They're monitoring private communications exactly like the worse of any repressive regime. And before anyone takes issue; I'm not saying they are as bad as a repressive regime, but that they have given all repressive regimes an easy and justifiable defence for their activities. Why should the US have access to data on their citizens that they don't?

Whether the governments of countries involved in PRISM care that they've lost the moral high ground is another matter. But you'd think their citizens would. Perhaps all governments are fine with the monitoring actions of the others. Universal monitoring would make all their jobs easier.

Re:It's all about thought control (2)

TWiTfan (2887093) | about a year ago | (#44028055)

Just because we are citizens of a country whose government commits wrongs doesn't mean we should just ignore every wrong committed by every other government in the world. We can still condemn BOTH, you know.

Re:It's all about thought control (1)

stud9920 (236753) | about a year ago | (#44027257)

Q: Why would Saudi Arabia ban communication tools such as Viber, Whatsapp and Skype?

A: They encourage prostitution

Skype is a PRISM surveillance engine (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44027429)

From the PRISM leak we found out that Skype and Facebook has a point and click surveillance interface via PRISM. So of course they're going to ban it, and it will be banned in many many countries, because the leak shows, the NSA can simply spy on it at will.

Facebook apps may face the same fate, since they too were revealed to have a PRISM interface with the data grab features.

"There has been “continued exponential growth in tasking to Facebook and Skype,” according to the PRISM slides. With a few clicks and an affirmation that the subject is believed to be engaged in terrorism, espionage or nuclear proliferation, an analyst obtains full access to Facebook’s “extensive search and surveillance capabilities against the variety of online social networking services.”

"According to a separate “User’s Guide for PRISM Skype Collection,” that service can be monitored for audio when one end of the call is a conventional telephone and for any combination of “audio, video, chat, and file transfers” when Skype users connect by computer alone. Google’s offerings include Gmail, voice and video chat, Google Drive files, photo libraries, and live surveillance of search terms."

Is SMS counted as US Metadata? Probably.
Is Email headers counted as US Metadata? Almost certainly.
Is the email header fields that link it to the smartphone's ID, counted as meta data? Almost certainly.

Re:It's all about thought control (1)

jaymemaurice (2024752) | about a year ago | (#44028443)

Just FYI, the main law is being broken is that the VoIP providers are unlicensed telecommunications providers.

In order to be a licensed telecommunications provider, your company must meet certain ownership requirements and comply with government oversight.
Part of the government oversight is the tariffs charged. Part of the ownership requirements ensures profit for the country.

Since the infrastructure to provide the internet is subsidized by international minutes (remember where the content, and where Saudi is) VoIP in its most common form is used as rate/toll bypass telecommunications fraud. Same like reconfiguring someone's voice mail to forward to an international number.

There is no technical reason why VoIP can be cheaper than what the telecommunications providers can provide. They could provide VoIP too or terminate the call through TDMoIP, lower codec quality etc... but this is whole thing is not about the COST of the call. It's about the margins and ownership. The telecommunications companies employ thousands of Saudi nationals. The Saudi nationals do not care about VoIP. This mostly does not effect them, it effects the expatriates. And even then, it only effects the expatriates who came to Saudi on contracts that don't pay them enough to make phone calls.

Skype has been typically allowed to operate in many middle eastern countries but only for PC to PC video calling. Skype-in and Skype-out services as well as access to the website to download and market the client was typically blocked.

Yes, the NSA scandal probably has some impact on the recent re-evaluation of Skype.

Re:It's all about thought control (1)

hcs_$reboot (1536101) | about a year ago | (#44028539)

The trend is, more and more, towards secure communications (eg last big change was google search, all https).
After banning some apps, then mobile phones, then tablets, then... from what point people of SA will start to complain?

Re:It's all about thought control (1)

sociocapitalist (2471722) | about a year ago | (#44030885)

Q: Why would Saudi Arabia ban communication tools such as Viber, Whatsapp and Skype?

A: Because they have no control or access to the messages passed with these apps.

According to TFA, Viber was blocked for non-compliance, and that WhatsApp and Skype may be next on the list. What is most interesting is that the regulator issued a directive in March saying tools such as Viber, WhatsApp and Skype broke local laws, without specifying which laws.

What we do know is that in 2010, Blackberry was also banned by Saudi Arabia [techcrunch.com] . The reason behind the ban was because BBM did not allow their customers' exchanges to be monitored by government. The ban was lifted after BB made a deal with the government to share user data.

Skype, Viber and WhatsApp AFAIK do not share their user data (for now).

Why has Saudi Arabia become emboldened to act now? Because the disclosure of the PRISM program makes them immune from international criticism. They can rightly point out that the US government already has access to the data. It shouldn't take long for other countries to follow suit with similar demands.

Or it might be to kill free competition for STC (the incumbent telephone company owned by the government...the government being the Royal family).

silly (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44027029)

tribal camel jockeys... they'll get theirs when we stop buying their oil

completely ineffective (3, Interesting)

stenvar (2789879) | about a year ago | (#44027077)

You can chat over any TCP connection. You can chat through HTTP on a web page. Short of banning all Internet connections and all web access, they can't even come up with a legal definition that kills online chatting, let alone police it.

Re:completely ineffective (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year ago | (#44027117)

You can chat over any TCP connection. You can chat through HTTP on a web page. Short of banning all Internet connections and all web access, they can't even come up with a legal definition that kills online chatting, let alone police it.

'You' in the generic sense can, 'you' in the 'a given user' sense is much less likely to be able to. 'You' in the sense of 'a given user who is using a locked-down device that he can't even add non-approved software to' is even less likely.

Absolutely effective bans are pretty hard. Breaking things hard enough to keep the clueless from having them is substantially easier.

Re:completely ineffective (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44027163)

...Absolutely effective bans are pretty hard. Breaking things hard enough to keep the clueless from having them is substantially easier....

Er... no. For instance, the OP talked about chatting through HTTP. That's most easily done by using a forum, which is a very common method of chatting for the 'computer clueless'. And it has Private Messaging....

Re:completely ineffective (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44027353)

There are thousands of web pages that support HTTP-based chat with no software installation at all. And setting up new ones anywhere in the world is cheaper than a Skype subscription.

Re:completely ineffective (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44027427)

Yeah, but those that do not use SSH are easily filtered. While it may not be the case in Saudi Arabia, and I say may, in some countries being detected as saying something wrong may actually lead to your death.

The reason that they ban them is most likely because they don't have any control over them, thus that the encryption managed to keep them out for now.

There are then still many other possible solutions, but still, you start to get more and more limited. The reason why most other services aren't banned is because they aren't used enough to do anything or because they aren't actually safe enough for you to use, especially in a country that will kill you for doing the wrong things.

Re:completely ineffective (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44029113)

you can also chat over freaking hyperterminal if push came to shove.

There's much more to ban (1)

aglider (2435074) | about a year ago | (#44027101)

E-mail, facebook messaging, google talk, yahoo messaging ... They have no clue about technology!

Re:There's much more to ban (1)

AHuxley (892839) | about a year ago | (#44027213)

Many may not have a huge traction in that part of the world or be interceptable with expensive commercial solutions.
Other companies might have demonstrated how their messages and emails are exchanged and thus encrypted communications are now available to regional security agencies.

Decentralised messenger (1)

ickleberry (864871) | about a year ago | (#44027179)

What about a decentralised app that uses end-to-end encryption, packets masquerading as something else and maybe a dose of onion routing for good measure? Would they have a go at blocking that as well? Exactly how Orwellian are these guys?

They are not worried about (5, Interesting)

purnima (243606) | about a year ago | (#44027201)

western expats or the Saudi nationals. They are worried about the millions of Asian workers, maids, drivers, cleaners who are treated like slaves. You don't have effective control over slaves if you let them communicate with their family whenever they want. Saudi Arabia is a hell hole for millions of people who have sold themselves into effective slavery, and the US government treats the place like its main ally in the region. Something about American history tells me it's a natural alliance.

So Anyhoodles (2)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about a year ago | (#44027299)

This impulse, that all money and resources were required to support one state-run system, and so outlawing competition was warranted, was commonly accepted throughout the West for much of the 20th century.

It still exists at the core of the promoters of single-payer medicine and public schools, where some dislike vouchers following students.

So don't lift your noses too quickly into the air.

Portal icon for this article is not quite right (1)

korbulon (2792438) | about a year ago | (#44027347)

http://imgur.com/lbzhxoE [imgur.com]

FTFY.

Old vs. Young (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44027613)

Then young terrorists will have to use email just as the old ones.

Re:Old vs. Young (1)

gweihir (88907) | about a year ago | (#44027795)

Terrorists don't use email except to misdirect the authorities.

Strange for a country with so much cash (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44027815)

If their telco's lowered the price of calls, then perhaps folks would not mind if Internet calling was less available.

Re:Strange for a country with so much cash (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about a year ago | (#44029009)

If their telco's lowered the price of calls, then perhaps folks would not mind if Internet calling was less available.

The number of people who think this story is really about Saudi Arabia needing the telco income is asymptotic to zero.

Saudi Arabia (1)

intermodal (534361) | about a year ago | (#44028861)

This is Saudi Arabia. Anyone who knows anything about how that government works should only be surprised that they didn't do this long ago.

Do I Understand This Correctly? (1)

LifesABeach (234436) | about a year ago | (#44030785)

A government becomes greater when its people are stronger, smarter, faster.

This is not about protecting SMS revenues (1)

Mubarmij (176563) | about a year ago | (#44031603)

I am from the UAE. What the Saudi Government plans to do does not appears to be because they want to protect mobile operators revenues. It is rather because these two applications are quite popular among the Saudis and are difficult to monitor (unlike, say, Twitter). I have seen quite a few messages about corruption in the country being first spread through such applications.

As to those posters who immediately link this to Islam. Grow up please. This is just a dirty old patriarchy and such censorship has nothing to do with the religion.

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