Skype, Whatsapp, Viber and other encrypted messaging services face the risk of being banned in Saudi Arabia if companies don't provide a monitoring server to the government by the end of this week, according to local media.
Despite Saudi authorities demand control over these applications, citizens and experts consider that this action will restrain the way they communicate through the Internet.
The Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) explained that the decision has been made because those programs and applications are using encrypted connections.
After 20 days of discussions with telecommunication companies, the CITC has concluded that it must be allowed to monitor these online systems and that they might be blocked if owners fail to reach an acceptable solution.
So far, first reactions from Saudi and non-Saudi users have shown anger and annoyance with the announcement, which will change the way they communicate with family and friends.
“I would be very disappointed if CITC disconnects this server,” said Indian schoolteacher Mohammed Akram. “Viber is the cheapest way to reach my children. It enables me to chat with them.”
In addition, one Saudi explained that she would feel uncomfortable talking to her relatives through Skype without her hijab (headscarf) if she believed someone might be monitoring her. “Does that mean they are going to have to wear the veil when they open the camera for me?”, she said.
Local bloggers have already suggested that Saudi telecom companies may support government's decision, due to the loss of revenue they are suffering with the increasingly use of these free services. Others insinuated that the idea may come from the telecom companies themselves.
Social networks, such as Twitter, and online programs like Skype allow Saudis express themselves freely, but this scenario might change in the coming days.
However, if this comes true, citizens, bloggers and professionals of the media will find a different way to communicate with each other. “I believe they should provide us with a replacement because all we want is to obtain lower rates and free communication technology,” explained one Saudi citizen.