BlackBerry confirmed on Monday that it will exit the Pakistan market as of November 30, due to user privacy concerns, and said that it was unable to reach a compromise with the country’s telecommunications authority.
Specifically, the company announced that BlackBerry’s BES servers will “no longer be allowed to operate in the country, starting in December, ‘for security reasons’.”
Here’s more from the company’s chief operating officer, Marty Beard, in a blog post [emphasis ours]:
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.
What we said in July when rumors of Pakistan’s decision started to swirl remains true today: “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.”
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. Although the Pakistani government’s directive was aimed only at our BES servers, we have decided to exit the market altogether, because Pakistan’s demand for open access to monitor a significant swath of our customers’ communications within its borders left us no choice but to exit the country entirely.
This is a damning assessment by Beard of the Pakistan government’s interactions with, and requests of, BlackBerry. Earlier this month, the company did a deep-dive on privacy, security, and why it’s turning to Google’s Android operating system to power its latest wave of smartphones.
But BlackBerry’s future remains far from certain, with chief executive John Chen saying it may exit the smartphone business if it’s not profitable within a year.
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