BlackBerry has reversed its decision to exit Pakistan completely, citing the national telecom authority’s own reversal of its demands for access to large swaths of BlackBerry customers’ communications. The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority had been seeking monitoring capabilities for all domestic BlackBerry Enterprise Service traffic, which includes user emails and private messages.
At the time of the departure announcement late last month, BlackBerry restated its unwillingness to compromise its customers’ privacy under any condition — save for legitimate law enforcement requests involving investigations of specific crimes. But what the Pakistani government was seeking amounted to a back door in BlackBerry’s otherwise end-to-end encrypted traffic: a free pass to view the private communications of anyone, at any time.
Pakistan is far from the only country seeking broader access to encrypted data in the name of national security. Along with the current U.S. debate on granting authorities backdoor access to the secure transmissions and storage of technology firms’ customers, China recently approved a controversial law that endows officials with the power to demand cryptographic keys and technical details of proprietary encryption implementations.