Who cares if Big Brother is watching?

The Etisalat spy scandal won’t make you give up your BlackBerrys, says Andrew White.

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By  Andrew White Published  July 22, 2009

Just because you’re paranoid, it doesn’t mean they’re not after you. That well-worn phrase is the mantra of conspiracy theorists the world over, and it was given more credence this week as it emerged that UAE incumbent telco Etisalat may have knowingly pushed a surveillance patch that enables the operator to see emails sent from customers’ BlackBerrys.

As iconic as the iPod, the BlackBerry is the Filofax of the Noughties, brandished with pride by 30 million 21st century yuppies that can’t bear the thought of being off the information superhighway for even a minute. Lunch is for wimps, unless you can push emails, send a few faxes and check the cricket scores while you eat.

And like their 80s counterparts, today’s yuppies are lost if they’re without their little black buddies. There’s a good reason the devices are nicknamed ‘crackberries’: you can tell when someone’s going cold turkey by their agitated, twitchy demeanor, and the way they’ve no idea what to do with hands too used to teasing a trackball.

A BlackBerry addict can be skiing in the French Alps or on a beach in Barbados, but bet your bottom dollar that little handset’s turned on. Even if you confiscate the battery, they’ll find someone else to borrow one from, if only for a quick glance at the inbox. The only chance you’ve got of weaning a loved one off the dreadful thing is to dump them somewhere in Africa that has yet to pick up a signal. Zanzibar works a treat, I’m told.

I know that plenty of people swear by the devices, and that anyone reading this on their handset will probably have logged off in disgust many paragraphs ago. After all, what a bonus it is to be accountable to the office 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Who doesn’t want to read press releases over drinks, fire off a memo at dinner, and play with the multi-touch interface later in the evening?

But the simple fact is that you don’t own your BlackBerrys; they own you. A host of software and telecom security experts have testified that Etisalat may be scrutinising what you write, what you read and where you browse. Big Brother is watching. And yet how many of you are binning your BlackBerrys?

Even though you know you’re being spied on, you still can’t turn the damn things off.

2938 days ago
Doug

SR - there's a world of difference between a government agency designed to protect people intercepting messages unobtrusively, and a private company forcing you to install a piece of software so they can directly monitor everything you do - and then outright lying about it.

2938 days ago
SR

All communications are monitored. From email, phone conversations, SMS. The Middle East is the subject of the focus of the surveillance, through what is called Deep Packet Inspection with regard to the Internet. All phone communications, including fibre-optics (they're duplicated through a process called splitting). Not to worry this has been going on since telegrams were invented and read before handing over to the party they were meant for. Everything you say, everything you write is filtered for keywords on a constant basis. So why there is such an uproar about Etisalat adding surveillance, when warrantless eavesdropping is commonplace in the West. It's the norm.

2948 days ago
P.M.

i dont know this article belongs to which kind of press but definitly not a respectable one like arabian business, this is nonsense, this journalist knows nothing about press or may be he thinks he is writing to a bunch of idiots...

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