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BlackBerry exits Pakistan amid user privacy concerns

Mon 30 Nov 2015

BlackBerry Pakistan

BlackBerry has announced that it will pull its operations in Pakistan from today, quoting a recent government notice which read that the company would not be permitted to continue its services in the country after December.

In July, the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) had released a statement addressed to mobile phone carriers operating in the region, explaining that their services would be shut down for ‘security reasons.’

In a blog post released by BlackBerry today, chief operating officer Marty Beard confirmed the decision:

‘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 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.

‘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. The privacy of our customers is paramount to BlackBerry, and we will not compromise that principle.’

Beard continued, referring to BlackBerry’s original statement in July when rumours of Pakistan’s demand first started circulating: ‘BlackBerry provides the world’s most secure communications platform to government, military and enterprise customers. Protecting that security is paramount to our mission. While we recognize the need to cooperate with lawful government investigative requests of criminal activity, we have never permitted wholesale access to our BES servers.’

Although the PTA was solely interested in BlackBerry’s enterprise business, BES, the company will also be shutting down its consumer branch in the country.

According to PTA chairman S. Ismail Shah, the body is still in discussion with BlackBerry – “hopefully it’ll be sorted out,” he said. He added that talks would continue over the next month and longer if necessary.

It is unclear how many customers will be affected by the Pakistan cut-off. However, the country is unlikely to be a huge source of revenue for the Canadian company. The move today signals BlackBerry’s dedication to upholding user data and security promises – a positive PR message for a company fighting a dwindling market share.

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