Saudi Arabia ‘Planning To Ban WhatsApp’

Tom Brewster is TechWeek Europe's Security Correspondent. He has also been named BT Information Security Journalist of the Year in 2012 and 2013.

Saudis show aggressive approach in coping with modern communications

After it was alleged Saudi Arabia was trying to spy on WhatsApp users, the nation is now trying to ban people from using the messaging service entirely, according to a report.

The  Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) of Saudi Arabia has already outlawed Viber, another massively popular messaging service, and could imminently do the same to WhatsApp. Both are hugely popular free messaging apps that run on iOS, Android and Windows Phone devices.

WhatsAppSaudi surveillance

It appears the kingdom is taking a hard line on people talking secretly over modern communications – something human rights activists have been outraged by.

In April, security researcher Moxie Marlinspike claimed he had been approached by Saudi telecoms firm Mobily, asking if he could create interception systems for WhatsApp, Viber, Twitter and Line.

Saudi officials say they have been in discussions with WhatsApp, but nothing has yet emerged. If WhatsApp does not comply with certain demands, which have not been publicly shared, the service would be outlawed within weeks.

The CITC issued a directive in March, saying technologies like WhatsApp had broken local laws, but it would not say how.

“We have been communicating with WhatsApp and other similar communication platforms to get them to cooperate and comply with the Saudi telecom providers. However, nothing has come of this communication yet,” Abdullah Al-Darrab, governor of the CITC, told Arab News.

Skype is also believed to be on the list of endangered apps. “We will take punitive action against these applications and services if they do not comply with the regulations,” Al-Darrab added.

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