BlackBerry to stay in Pakistan after government drops surveillance request

BlackBerry to stay in Pakistan after government drops surveillance request - image

BlackBerry says it will remain operating in Pakistan after that country’s government backed off from its request to gain access to the company’s servers.

Marty Beard, chief operating officer of BlackBerry, wrote on the company’s blog Thursday that the Waterloo, Ont.-based technology firm decided to stay there once the government’s decision was made.

BlackBerry previously said it would rather close its operations in Pakistan than provide the government “unfettered” access to its BlackBerry Enterprise Servers.

Pakistani officials had wanted to monitor all traffic in the country, including every email and BlackBerry Messenger correspondence. BES communications are routed through the company’s servers in Canada, BlackBerry had said before the resolution announced Thursday.

The company had been considering its options ahead of a Dec. 30 deadline.

“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 any so-called back doors to our BES servers,” Beard said in the blog entry.

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READ MORE: BlackBerry to exit Pakistan over government surveillance

Exiting Pakistan would’ve put BlackBerry in a difficult position as it tries to recover a share of the international market.

The company has built its reputation on security, buying up specialized software firms and marketing its phones, including the new Priv, on their privacy features.

BlackBerry is rolling out its latest Priv smartphone across the world. The phone’s distribution will spike to 31 countries by the end of February when the company’s fourth quarter ends.

Deflecting requests for its phone user’s data isn’t a new situation for BlackBerry. In 2010, several countries including India and Saudi Arabia threatened to ban BlackBerry over its refusal to hand over correspondence between its customers.

Similar to Pakistan, India said it had public safety as its primary concern as it tried to combat militants in the wake of the 2008 attacks in Mumbai that killed 166 people. BlackBerry was able to convince each country to comply with its existing lawful access policies.

However, there are some exceptions to BlackBerry’s policies on privacy.

Earlier this month, chief executive John Chen said he’d be willing to hand private customer information over to law enforcement under certain circumstances.

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He cited BlackBerry’s “long-standing policy” that outlines when the company would be willing to give access to police under a court order. Those instances would not provide actual correspondence between users, but would be able to provide a phone’s location, which users contacted each other and certain metadata, Chen said.

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