BlackBerry Exits Pakistan Citing Surveillance Demands

Through a post on its official blog on Monday, the Canadian smartphone company BlackBerry (formerly Research in Motion) has announced that it will stop doing business in Pakistan because of the government's insistence that backdoor access be granted to the company's encrypted services. According to the company however, that just wasn't a compromise it was willing to make. As per the post from the company's Chief Operating Officer, Mr. Marty Beard, "After November 30, BlackBerry will no longer operate in Pakistan. While we regret leaving this important market and our valued customers there, remaining in Pakistan would have meant forfeiting our commitment to protect our users' privacy. That is a compromise we are not willing to make".

The issue has long been a bone of contention between the Canadian company and the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority, who, back in July this year, had issued notifications to mobile operators in the country asking them to shut off BlackBerry Enterprise Servers from the first of December "for security reasons". Now however, the Government has extended the deadline by one month, meaning, BlackBerry will officially shut shop in the country come New Year's Day, unless something drastic happens between now and then. That's because while the Pakistani Government continues to insist on being able to monitor all BES (BlackBerry Enterprise Service) traffic in the country, the Canadian company states that "The privacy of our customers is paramount to BlackBerry, and we will not compromise that principle".

The decision will reportedly affect over 5,000 enterprise users in the country, which may not necessarily mean significant revenue loss for BlackBerry. The company has already been cooperating with law enforcement authorities in countries where they have a larger client base, including the US, India, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Russia, although, it hasn't explicitly spelt out what kind of deals are in place with government authorities in most of the aforementioned regions. Mr. Beard meanwhile, makes it a point to harp on the company's 'privacy-first' credentials, by stating that, "BlackBerry's focus will remain on protecting corporate, government and military communications throughout the world, including in South Asia and the Middle East, wherever our technology operates".

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Kishalaya Kundu

Senior Staff Writer
I've always been a tech buff and have been building my own PCs since as far back as I can remember. My first computer was a home-built desktop running MS-DOS on which I learnt to program in GW-BASIC and my interests apart from technology include automobiles and sports.