With BlackBerry Enterprise Services (BES) in Pakistan set to be shut down later today, a BlackBerry executive has taken to the company official blog to explain why his company is planning to leave the South Asian country.
“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,” says Marty Beard, BlackBerry chief operating officer, in a newly published post on Inside BlackBerry. “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 goes on to state he and the company do not believe the Pakistani government is demanding free access in the interest of public safety. “Pakistan’s demand was not a question of public safety; we are more than happy to assist law enforcement agencies in investigations of criminal activity,” he says. “Rather, Pakistan was essentially demanding unfettered access to all of our BES customers’ information. The privacy of our customers is paramount to BlackBerry, and we will not compromise that principle.”
The news that the Waterloo-based company was preparing to exit the Pakistani market broke in late July. At the time, Reuters reported that the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority had ordered directors of local carriers to shut down BlackBerry Enterprise Services on November 30.
Since publishing the post, BlackBerry has updated it. It now states the Pakistani government has delayed the shutdown order until the end of the year.
This is not the first time BlackBerry has run into a foreign government that wants access to its communication systems. In the instances of the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and India, all countries that threatened to ban BES if BlackBerry did not grant them unfettered access, BlackBerry relented to those governments and gave them access. Documents leaked by Edward Snowden have also revealed the NSA and intelligence agencies around the world have been able to access to private user data stored on BlackBerry devices with relative ease.