BlackBerry To Abandon Pakistan After Draconian Backdoor Access Requests

Canadian phone maker BlackBerry today announced that it's pulling out of Pakistan next month due to government requests to monitor communications of its customers. Even though BlackBerry's struggling to regain share of the global smartphone and mobile OS markets, the company said that forfeiting its commitment to protecting user privacy is simply not an option.

The Pakistani Telecommunications Authority notified the country's mobile phone operators that BlackBerry BES servers would no longer be allowed to operate in the country, citing "security reasons," according to BlackBerry COO Marty Beard.

BlackBerry contends that security isn't the issue.


"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 stated in a blog post. "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."

Beard said that BlackBerry is "more than happy" to help with official investigations of criminal activity, if that was truly Pakistan's concern. Instead, he says Pakistan is more interested in gaining "unfettered access" to BlackBerry's BES customers.

"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," Beard added.

The Government of Pakistan was quick to respond to Beard's blog post this morning by extending its shutdown order from today to December 30, presumably in hopes of hammering out a deal. Beard said BlackBerry will delay its exit from the Pakistan market until the new deadline.