Moxie Marlinspike is an American ‘software engineer, hacker, sailor, captain, and shipwright.’ It’s quite obvious that the person uses a pseudonym which is a requirement for the work he does. Marlinspike posted a rather interesting piece of information on his blog regarding telecommunication interception plans in Saudi Arabia.
According to Marlinspike, an agent from the renowned Saudi telecom company called Mobily tried to recruit him to work on a surveillance project. The software engineer tried to dig up more information on the job position and requirements and what he found out was sort of a confirmation of previous reports.
During March this year, news reports emerged saying Saudi Arabia was all set to ban Smartphone service WhatsApp, video messaging service Skype, Viber etc and several other instant messaging services. The reason behind the move was the encryption of the messages which couldn’t be tracked easily by the government and that caused trouble in keeping tabs on terrorist activities. A similar ban was successfully put on BlackBerry phones in the country in 2010.
Marlinspike discovered that Mobily, which is under the influence of the Saudi government, was organizing a program to intercept mobile application data with specific interests in mobile Twitter, WhatsApp and Viber. He was also asked by ‘the regulator’ (possibly the government) to both block and monitor mobile data communication.
The same reason of ‘terrorism threats’ was given to Moxie Marlinspike when he turned down the job offer indicating his concerns regarding privacy. The former hacker eventually turned down the deal after corresponding with the Saudi company but posted his account and revealed the emails because he thought it was necessary for the people to know that Saudi Arabia had plans to spy on its people.
But then this policy of snooping on citizens by governments is not uncommon. More recently the United States of America passed a wiretapping law allowing FBI to do warrantless searches on user information available online and India decided to monitor and tap all electronic and online communication of its people. Both the countries are the most-admired democracies of the world and even they messing up with privacy rights. As we mentioned in earlier blog, Saudi Arabia is already notorious worldwide for its innumerable unreasonable bans and these plans of telecom surveillance might just add to the list. The news of their government wanting to spy on its people shouldn’t really come as a surprise.