Encrypted messaging services such as Skype, Viber and WhatsApp could be blocked in Saudi Arabia. The telecommunications censor is demanding a means to snoop on such applications.
Saudi newspapers are reporting that the companies behind the
applications have been given a week to respond. No explanation has been given of why the demand has been made.
Internet communications has had a big impact in Saudi Arabia, which has the highest take-up of Twitter in the world, reports the BBC's
Arab affairs editor Sebastian Usher. He adds that this latest threat would potentially deprive people of what has become an essential means of simply communicating with friends and family.
One Saudi user told the local media that she would
feel uncomfortable talking to her relative on Skype without her hijab (headscarf) if she believed someone might be listening in on her.
Expatriate workers have messaged newspapers pleading with the Saudis not to stop their only affordable means of
communication to their families back home.