BlackBerry to quit Pakistan over government surveillance demands

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BlackBerry said it would stop operations in Pakistan after Dec. 30

BlackBerry has decided not to operate in Pakistan after Dec. 30, rather than let the local government intercept communications on its enterprise services.

The Pakistani government wanted the ability to monitor all BlackBerry Enterprise Service traffic in the country, including every BES email and BES BBM (BlackBerry Messenger) message, BlackBerry's Chief Operating Officer Marty Beard wrote in a blog post on Monday.

BlackBerry has been under pressure in many countries including neighboring India to provide access to data on its enterprise services to law enforcement.

"We do not support 'back doors' granting open access to our customers’ information and have never done this anywhere in the world," Beard wrote.

BlackBerry's move is a response to a reported July notification by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority to the country's mobile phone operators that BlackBerry’s BES servers would not be allowed to operate in the country from December “for security reasons.”

The company had earlier on Monday said it would quit Pakistan on Nov. 30, but later said it was postponing by a month because of a delay by Pakistan of its shutdown order to Dec. 30. There are also indications that the two sides may arrive at a compromise. PTA spokesman Khurram Ali Mehran said the agency is still in contact with BlackBerry "to find out a solution."

"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," Beard wrote.

Civil rights group Bytes for All, Pakistan posted on its site in July a leaked document of minutes of a PTA meeting, which advised operators Pakistan Mobile Company (Mobilink), Pakistan Telecom Mobile (Ufone) and Telenor Pakistan to ensure that all BES connections are closed on or before Nov. 30, 2015. The document cited "serious security concerns."

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