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BlackBerry exiting Pakistan following privacy dispute

BlackBerry has confirmed that it will exit Pakistan over after it was unable to reconcile its commitment to privacy with the government’s security concerns.

Marty Beard, COO of BlackBerry, stated: “The Pakistani government wanted the ability to monitor all BlackBerry Enterprise Service (BES) 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.”

He went on to add: “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. That is a compromise we are not willing to make.”

The company’s exit – scheduled for December 30 – comes in response to a recent ruling by Pakistan’s ministry of interior, which ordered the regulator PTA (Pakistan Telecommunication Authority) to block BlackBerry’s BES (secure enterprise services). The censure was originally scheduled for November 30, although this has now been extended to December 30 with BlackBerry similarly delaying its exit.

The smartphone firm’s BES service has around 5,000 users in Pakistan. While BES was in fact the target of the government directive, BlackBerry has decided to leave the market due to its unwillingness to provide customer information to any government – although it has stated that it will cooperate fully in any criminal investigations.

This is not the first time that BlackBerry has faced pressure from governments to provide full ‘back-door’ access to customer information, with both India and the UAE threatening to ban the firm’s encrypted services back in 2010.

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