Clashes between the maker of Blackberry smart phones and India, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are the latest rounds in a cat-and-mouse game pitting authorities against technologies racing beyond their grasp.

“What is going on is this elegant dance we go through when countries think their sovereignty is being threatened by new technology,” said Mark Rasch, who headed the computer crimes division at the US Department of Justice for nine years.

“Governments are very ready to deploy technology that invades privacy, but privacy enhancing technologies make them nervous.”

Security experts put the row over Blackberry encryption capabilities in the context of decades of skirmishing around the security implications of new Internet and communications technologies — a battle that today also touches services like Google’s Talk messaging system and the telephone and video services provided by Skype.

In the most high profile case this month, BlackBerry maker Research in Motion (RIM) said Friday it was “optimistic” it could avert a threatened shutdown by India of the core features of the popular smartphone over security worries.

A delegation from the Canadian firm met India’s Home Secretary G.K. Pillai to discuss the government’s warning it would ban BlackBerry’s corporate email and messaging unless it gave security agencies access to the encrypted services.

The Indian ultimatum came after Saudi Arabia postponed imposing a BlackBerry ban as the conservative Muslim country reported progress in solving its own security concerns.

The UAE, however, has said it will ban BlackBerry messenger, email and web browsing services from October 11 for security reasons.

Source: Glenn Chapman for AFP.

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