The Pakistani government has banned the use of the company’s BlackBerry Enterprise servers, which provide encrypted data and communications services to BlackBerry mobile phones.
BlackBerry will “exit the country entirely” on 30 December, when BlackBerry mobile phones within the country will cease to operate. Originally BlackBerry was due to pull out in November, but the ban on its servers was put back by a month by Pakistan.
BlackBerry chief operating officer Marty Beard said: “The truth is that the Pakistani government wanted the ability to monitor all BlackBerry Enterprise Service traffic in the country, including every email and BBM message. But BlackBerry will not comply with that sort of directive.
“We do not support ‘back doors’ granting open access to our customers’ information and have never done this anywhere in the world.”
Pakistan’s Telecommunications Authority ordered mobile phone operators and BlackBerry to cease using BlackBerry servers in July for “security reasons”. BlackBerry’s secure servers cannot be intercepted by the Pakistan government, meaning that messaging services, email and browsing can be obfuscated from snooping. But BlackBerry insists that it will respond to “lawful government investigative requests of criminal activity”.
Beard said: “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.”
BlackBerry has faced similar problems in the past in India, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia. In 2010, BlackBerry services were banned within the UAE and Saudi Arabia. Bans were lifted in some states but with tightened restrictions.
For Pakistan, BlackBerry’s exit comes after a ramping up of government surveillance, which Privacy International said was an abuse of communications surveillance powers, including widespread internet-monitoring and censorship.
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