Blackberry quits Pakistan over govt ‘back door’ demand


BlackBerry has on Monday announced that it would cease operations in Pakistan and exit completely by December 30.

The company came to the conclusion to quit after the Pakistan government asked the Smartphone maker to give it unfettered access to its secure BlackBerry Enterprise Service (BES) servers.

According to an online report, the Pakistani Telecommunications Authority notified carriers that BES servers won’t be allowed to operate in the country citing security reasons.

However, BlackBerry was of the argument that the Pakistani government’s demands had nothing to do with public safety.

According to Blackberry Chief Operating Officer (COO), Marty Beard wrote in a blog post announcing the company’s decision to exit Pakistan: “The truth is that the Pakistani government wanted the ability to monitor all BlackBerry Enterprise Service traffic in the country, including every BES e-mail and BES BBM [BlackBerry Messenger] message.

“But BlackBerry will not comply with that sort of directive. As we have said many times, we do not support ‘back doors’ granting open access to our customers’ information and have never done this anywhere in the world.”

The original directive had asked carriers to stop BES services by November 30 but the deadline was extended by a month to December 30.

Accordingly, the Canadian telecommunication and wireless equipment company has delayed its exit till the deadline lapses. The move would affect approximately 5,000 companies who are BES customers in Pakistan.

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“Pakistan’s demand was not a question of public safety; we are more than happy to assist law enforcement agencies in investigations of criminal activity.

“Rather, Pakistan was essentially demanding unfettered access to all of our BES customers’ information Pakistan was essentially demanding unfettered access to all of our BES customers’ information,” Beard claimed.

While the directive did not include consumer services and BlackBerry phones themselves, the company has decided to cease all its operations and leave the country.

“Although the Pakistani government’s directive was aimed only at our BES servers, we have decided to exit the market altogether, because Pakistan’s demand for open access to monitor a significant swath of our customers’ communications within its borders left us no choice but to exit the country entirely,” Beard explained.

This is not the first time a government has asked BlackBerry for access to its servers for “lawful interception.” India too had made a similar demand for real-time access to traffic going through BlackBerry’s enterprise and consumer servers. The government had made it mandatory for BlackBerry to set up its servers within the country.

After several rounds of negotiations, BlackBerry set up servers in India and reportedly provided the Indian government the ability to track in real-time certain consumer services such as emails and email attachments as well as whether messages sent over BlackBerry Messenger were delivered and read. The enterprise services were kept out of that arrangement.


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