Saudi Arabia Starts Clamping Down On Encrypted VoIP Services; US And UK Strangely Silent On The Moves

from the awkward dept

Earlier this month, the messaging service Viber was blocked in Saudi Arabia. This was not entirely unexpected, since the authorities had been trying to come to grips with the service and its ability to encrypt messages for a while according to Viber's founder, as a BBC News report explains:

Mr Marco told the BBC that Saudi internet service providers and mobile operators started asking for information about the internal workings of the service a couple of months ago.

"We assumed that the reason they wanted it was to try to figure out ways to tap into our conversations, listen to what our users are saying, read messages," he said.
Back in March of this year, another BBC story noted that two other encrypted messaging services -- Skype and WhatsApp -- were also being told to make it possible for the authorities to eavesdrop on communications. In the wake of the Viber ban, there are now concerns that WhatsApp, Skype and the Tango messaging service may fall afoul of the Saudi authorities' desire to bring these new technologies under control.

A few weeks ago, this clear attempt to ensure that citizens in Saudi Arabia could be routinely spied upon when using popular new communication services would doubtless have prompted denunciations from Western countries of these clear threats to privacy and personal freedom. But in the light of the revelations about the large-scale snooping being carried out by the NSA in the US and GCHQ in the UK, that is hardly an option. This shows once more how increasing surveillance in the West gives those in other parts of the world a free pass to do the same.

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