A source has revealed that the UAE may lift its ban on WhatsApp calls.
Most Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services — including Skype, FaceTime and WhatsApp — are illegal in the UAE. However, Mohamed Al Kuwaiti, executive director of the UAE’s National Electronic Security Authority, told CNBC that the country has been working with big tech platforms, especially Facebook-owned WhatsApp, on national security initiatives.
“The collaboration with WhatsApp has actually increased, and in many of those [projects] we saw a very good understanding [from them] of the concept we have,” he said. “There might be a lift of that ban for [WhatsApp] voice calls … and this is going to happen soon. This is what we know and understand from the telecommunication authority here in the UAE.”
Other nations in the region have also pulled back on their issues with VoIP providers in recent years. Saudi Arabia got rid of its ban on WhatsApp calls in 2017, while Qatar now allows the use of VoIP services through licensed telecom operators. Last year, there were reports that Microsoft and Apple were talking with the UAE’s government about lifting the ban on Skype and FaceTime.
Of course, technology also brings with it security concerns. Just last week, Ravi Shankar Prasad, India’s technology minister, asked WhatsApp for the details of a hack that compromised the smartphones of journalists, human rights activists and others.
“As part of our investigation into the incident, Citizen Lab has identified over 100 cases of abusive targeting of human rights defenders and journalists in at least 20 countries across the globe — ranging from Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and North America — that took place after Novalpina Capital acquired NSO Group, and began an ongoing public relations campaign to promote the narrative that the new ownership would curb abuses,” explained Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto.