BlackBerry Defies Pakistan's Backdoor Demands, Leaves Country
Canadian handset maker Blackberry is not playing around with privacy in Pakistan. The company has slammed the door shut on its operations in the Asian nation rather than give the Pakistani government access to BlackBerry Enterprise Service (BES) e-mails and BBM chats.
After December 30, BlackBerry will cease to operate in Pakistan. BlackBerry had initially planned to pull out as of November 30 but the Pakistani government extended its shutdown order a month, giving the company more time to wrap up loose ends.
“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,” said Marty Beard (pictured), COO of BlackBerry, in a statement. “That is a compromise we are not willing to make.”
BlackBerry’s Strong Stand
Here’s BlackBerry’s side of the backstory: Citing “security reasons,” Pakistan Telecommunications Authority in July notified mobile phone operators in that nation that BlackBerry’s BES servers would not be allowed to operate in the nation come December.
“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 said. “But BlackBerry will not comply with that sort of directive. As we have said many times, we do not support ‘backdoors’ granting open access to our customers’ information and have never done this anywhere in the world.”
From BlackBerry’s point of view, Pakistan was not motivated by public safety. Beard made it clear that the company is ready and willing to help law enforcement agencies investigate criminal matters. However, Pakistan is basically demanding open access to BES customer information, he said. The bottom line: BlackBerry would rather stop doing business in the nation than hand over its customer data.
No Big Surprise
This move should not come as any great shock. When rumors of Pakistan’s decision started to swirl this summer, BlackBerry made it very clear that protecting customer security was “paramount” to its mission. At that time, BlackBerry, which has always been known for its security features, said that it had never permitted wholesale access to its BES servers. It's current stance against Pakistan shows that it is not planning to do so now.
“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,” Beard said. “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.”
BlackBerry is forging ahead in other foreign markets, though. The company last week released Priv by BlackBerry, the first BlackBerry smartphone powered by Android, in Vietnam. BlackBerry’s hardware root of trust injects cryptographic keys into the device's hardware, promising a secure foundation for the platform, according to the company. The device also comes with “advanced” privacy controls, BlackBerry said.
Posted: 2015-11-30 @ 3:07pm PT
Well done, BlackBerry!