BlackBerry will be exiting the Pakistani market at the end of the year after receiving a ban on its BlackBerry Enterprise Services (BES). The ban stemmed from the smartphone maker’s refusal to allow the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency backdoor access to customer data; which is apparently a requirement for smartphone makers to operate in the country.
A blog post from BlackBerry announced its exit from the country, saying that customer privacy is its primary concern. It says that Pakistan was “demanding unfettered access” to all BES customers’ information, which is something the company refused to comply with. The Pakistani government had ordered that BES services be shut down at the end of December, and BlackBerry has decided to pack up and leave instead.
The company reiterated a statement that it released in July when the problems with ISI began: “BlackBerry provides the world’s most secure communications platform to government, military and enterprise customers. Protecting that security is paramount to our mission. While we recognize the need to cooperate with lawful government investigative requests of criminal activity, we have never permitted wholesale access to our BES servers.”
Smartphone security is a big deal these days. Governments around the world are pushing for greater access to user data, and there has been a backlash against encryption in communication services. While Pakistan is a comparatively small market for BlackBerry, one can only wonder what would happen if US officials get their way and attempt to pressure the company into providing access to BES data.