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BlackBerry to Stay in Pakistan after BES Encryption 'Victory'

BlackBerry’s uncompromising stance on encryption has paid off in Pakistan where the government has withdrawn its demands to access the data of enterprise customers.

In a blog post late last week, chief operating officer, Marty Beard, said that Islamabad had “rescinded its shutdown order” and that as such the Canadian firm had “decided to remain in the Pakistan market.”

He added:

“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.

We look forward to serving the Pakistani market for years to come, including introducing new products and services, and thank our valued customers in Pakistan for their patience and loyalty.”  

It’s not clear what will happen to BBM chat messages.

In July, the government ordered BlackBerry to leave the country by 30 November, citing “security reasons,” because the smartphone maker wouldn’t allow it to access BlackBerry Enterprise Service (BES) emails and BBM chats.

That deadline was extended to the end of December, but it was thought that Pakistan’s hardline stance would result in BlackBerry being forced to leave—in a move which would have affected thousands of enterprise customers in the country.

The once-dominant mobile maker prides itself on the security of its platforms but has been forced into compromise by regional governments in the past.

This occurred most notably in India where in 2013 a long-running stand-off with the authorities ended with BlackBerry providing access to BIS and BBM messages but not those of BES customers.

The arguments between governments and providers of strongly encrypted messaging services have grown particularly fierce of late in the UK and US, where lawmakers are using the terrorism threat to try and strong arm tech firms into providing backdoor access to messages.

In the UK the matter is currently under debate in the form of the draft Investigatory Powers Bill passing through parliament, while in Washington no formal legislation has yet been proposed.

Critics argue that any so-called ‘backdoors’ into such messaging systems created for intelligence agencies and law enforcers will eventually find their way onto the black market, undermining security and privacy for millions of corporate users and consumers.

Photo © Svetlana Dikhtyareva/Shutterstock.com  

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