​BlackBerry Pakistan After Govt. Wanted To Violate Customer Privacy By Access All Smartphone Communications

BlackBerry Booted Out Of Pakistan Over Privacy Issues
Author: Jennifer HongBy:
Staff Reporter
Dec. 1, 2015

A BlackBerry Pakistan deal has been broken after the smartphone manufacturer could not reach a satisfactory agreement with the government over an issue with user privacy. BlackBerry Chief operating officer Marty Beard wrote in a company blog that the deal would have meant “forfeiting our commitment to protect our user’s privacy.”

BlackBerry will be leaving the country on December 30, when Pakistan’s “shutdown order” goes into effect. That’s a month after the order was originally supposed to go into effect.

The controversy dates back to July when the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority notified the country’s mobile phone operators that the BlackBerry Enterprise Servers “would no longer be allowed to operate in the country starting in December ‘for security reasons.'”

“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,” Beard writes. “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.” Apparently, the Pakistan government is demanding back door access to all company servers, reported Mashable.

BlackBerry Booted Out Of Pakistan Over Privacy Issues

The BlackBerry Pakistan partnership couldn’t work because of customer privacy issues. Many other tech companies help governments around the globe fight crime by giving up user data during certain scenarios, especially when warrants are issued, but Pakistan wanted the ability to monitor all emails and messages sent within the country.

While Beard says “we regret leaving this important market…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. 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,” Beard said.

Beard also said that although the BlackBerry Pakistan directive was aimed only at the company’s BES servers, which is when they decided to exit the market altogether. The government’s demand for open access to monitor customers’ communications left the smartphone maker no choice but to leave the country entirely, reported eWeek.

BlackBerry Booted Out Of Pakistan Over Privacy Issues

The Pakistan Telecommunications Authority gave BlackBerry a shutdown order in July, saying the company would not be allowed to operate within Pakistan unless it gave the government access to enterprise user data. Rather than comply, BlackBerry has decided to leave the country.

Worldwide, tech companies are engaged in a debate with governments that are demanding “backdoor” access to user data as a way to monitor terrorist and criminal activity and keep the public safe, but the tech industry argues that this type of access would create more harm and potentially make it easier for hackers, criminals and terrorist to gain access to the sensitive user data companies are tasked with protecting, reported Times of India.

BlackBerry’s decision to pull out of Pakistan is a win for those who argue against creating back doors. But the company is estimated to have only about 5,000 BES users in the market, so exiting Pakistan is not expected to cause a major dent in revenue. Additionally, Pakistan already appears to be backtracking from its ultimatum.

Originally, Pakistan’s shutdown order was for Nov. 30, but after BlackBerry announced its intention to leave, the government extended its shutdown order by a month, the company said. “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,” BlackBerry said. “That is a compromise we are not willing to make.”

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