So, apparently, Viber has been blocked if you’re on mobile Internet (3G/EDGE) in Lebanon and that has been confirmed with local carrier Alfa, who just said “the ministry has blocked it”. Now, naturally, knowing the telecom sector in Lebanon, it’s to stop you from using services without paying them a LOT of money for a sub-standard service most of the time.
However, an article on LebanonDebate delves deeper into this, and has revealed that the founder is an Israeli-American who served in the IDF. It also hints at the fact that the app has access to your phonebook and transactions done on it (photos, etc.) which is usually standard for apps like that (Whatsapp for example needs those permissions, and so does “TrueCaller”). Viber raised further concerns for the guys at LD because it is completely free (no app fee or ad support) and questioned why would they offer such a great and free service without anything in return if not for malicious reasons?
Well, when it comes to apps and social networks, it’s very tough to make money at first. Sensations like Instagram and Skype are never profitable, until they become successful enough to be acquired by bigger fish (Microsoft bought out Skype, Facebook bought out Instagram). So, not making money is common for web and mobile start-ups and doesn’t raise much of a red flag for me.
As for the founder being an Israeli-American, and serving in the IDF, remember all Israeli citizens serve in the IDF (it’s mandatory) and many companies are bound to have Israeli employees (just like they have Lebanese ones all over the world). So, honestly, I’m not really sold on the Israeli spy conspiracy thing, and if you’re worried about Israel getting your photos and calls, stop using it. If you’re worried about your privacy, don’t download apps like Viber and TrueCaller, which by the way is much worse in terms of permissions and privacy breaches (which I know most of you have).
How to bypass this ban?
It’s pretty simple, all you need to do is download a free app (on Android and iOS) which I have linked to at the bottom. This allows you to set up a virtual private network (VPN) which allows your device to use an IP address from different countries and locations, which to a certain degree, allows you to mask your identity and location (unless someone is really intent on finding out) and thus allows you to appear as if you were in Europe or the US for example and thus bypassing the block by the Ministry. I have worked with a friend back home and he has confirmed it works, as well as another friend, Jerome, in the UAE (both Androids).
Viber’s Pluses and WiFi Connectivity
It seems to be working fine on WiFi connections, it’s just the mobile internet connections that are blocking the use of Viber. If you’re like me, and use the app to stay connected with loved ones around the world for free, this app is extremely useful and saves you a lot of money. A scare based on speculations it’s an Israeli spy tool or to force you to pay more instead of save on telecom, is not fair to you. So, knowing the risks of possible privacy breach, it’s up to you to decide if you want to use it or, and definitely not the government’s decision and I am extremely disappointed and outraged with the Telecom ministry and Minister Sehnaoui for letting this pass without telling us about it, especially after making all the fuss about the ISF IB requesting our information.
Download and Usage
Just click on the links below from your devices, or search for any free VPN app on Google Play or the App Store. I recommend HotSpot Shield. Also, remember, this app might be app supported and might use internet connection itself, so to save MBs, only activate it before opening Viber. If you want extra security though, for all your online browsing, keep it on most of the time. Also, the Android one is completely free, but the iOS one is free for 7 sessions only (as usual, Apple = wallet drainage or jailbreaking =P)