BlackBerry ‘To Stay In Pakistan’

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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Pakistan’s government has withdrawn an order for BlackBerry’s encrypted messaging servers to be shut down

BlackBerry has said it is to continue trading in Pakistan after the country’s government withdrew an order for its encrypted communications servers to be shut down.

The Canadian smartphone maker said last month that Pakistan’s government had ordered the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to stop operating BlackBerry’s BES servers as of 30 December, 2015, due to “security concerns”.

Pakistan - Shutterstock - Jiri Flogel

Government tensions

The servers enable encrypted communications via BlackBerry’s mobile devices. Law enforcement authorities in a number of countries, including the UK, have criticised major IT companies for enabling the proliferation of encrypted communications, arguing they could be used by extremists to plan attacks.

As a result of the government order BlackBerry said it planned to exit the Pakistan market entirely.

“The Pakistani government wanted the ability to monitor all BlackBerry BES traffic in the country, including every BES email and BES BBM message,” BlackBerry chief operating officer Marty Beard said at the time. “BlackBerry will not comply with that sort of directive.”

The government has now withdrawn its order following “productive discussions”, Beard said, and as a result BlackBerry plans to continue operating in Pakistan.

“We are grateful to the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority and the Pakistani government for accepting BlackBerry’s position that we cannot provide the content of our customers’ BES traffic, nor will we provide access to our BES servers,” Beard said in a blog post. “We look forward to serving the Pakistani market for years to come.”

Surveillance deals

BlackBerry has faced similar problems in India, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia.

The company confirmed in 2013 that it had provided the Indian government with a system allowing it to access messages sent over BlackBerry Messenger and BlackBerry Internet Services, but emphasised the system doesn’t allow access to secure BES messages.

Beard told a conference in November that the company aims to take a “balanced” approach with governments, in contrast to rivals such as Apple who want “encryption all the way”.

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