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enemies of internetThe Saudi telecommunication regulator’s threat to ban voice-over-IP (VOIP) internet telephony services and mobile messaging services has evoked strong reactions from citizens and expatriate residents of the country.

According to sources from local telecommunications companies, the Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) in the country has demanded that it be allowed to monitor encrypted applications, according to a report in English daily Arab News.

According to the report, users of mobile messaging service WhatsApp and VOIP services Viber and Skype in the kingdom face the risk of being barred from these applications if the operators of these communication platforms do not provide a monitoring server by the end of this week.

“I would be very disappointed if CITC disconnects this server; I use it every day to talk to my wife and children who live in India,” Indian schoolteacher Mohammad Akram told the Saudi daily.

“Viber is the cheapest way to reach my children. It enables me to chat with them, share pictures and send voice messages. If they ban it, I would have to go back to talking to my children once a month without seeing them until I visit them,” he added.

The paper said that Saudi students on scholarships who use Skype to contact their parents are also disappointed.

“I really don’t understand what they mean by monitoring. Are they going to tap into the conversations I have with my mother and sister? Does that mean they are going to have to wear the veil when they open the camera for me?” Khalid Tunsi, a finance student in the US, wondered while talking to the Jeddah-based English daily.

“I really don’t understand what they mean by monitoring. Are they going to tap into the conversations I have with my mother and sister? Does that mean they are going to have to wear the veil when they open the camera for me?” Khalid Tunsi, a finance student in the US, wondered while talking to the Jeddah-based English daily.

“If they cut off these applications, it will make my life really difficult because with this technology I am able to see my mother every day,” he added.

Tunsi’s mother is also concerned by this news, saying this application has brought her comfort. “No one understands what I’m going through; my only son is living a million miles away and he only receives one ticket per year from the Saudi Cultural Attaché to come home for a visit,” she said. “If they take these applications away from me, I will really be depressed.”

According to Al Arabiya news site, the Saudi telecommunication watchdog had addressed a similar case with BlackBerry maker Research In Motion (RIM) in 2010 when it ordered local telecommunication companies to suspend BlackBerry messenger services.

The site further reported that Saudi online users took to Twitter to mock the commission’s anticipated decision, with some asking for the internet service to be cut off altogether.

Gulf News

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