Blackberry has announced it is ceasing operations in Pakistan because the government wanted to spy on the communications of its users.
In July, the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority notified the country’s mobile phone operators that BlackBerry’s BES servers would no longer be allowed to operate in the country starting in December "for security reasons".
Blackberry alleges that the government wanted to monitor every email and BBM message sent through its servers in the country, a directive the company was not prepared to comply with.
“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,” the company said in a blog post.
“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.”
“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 Pakistani government has restricted internet services in the past due to communications that it has deemed inappropriate.
In 2012, Twitter was banned in the country for a period of 12 hours due to the alleged transmission of "blasphemous" material on the social networking site.
Rafael Laguna, CEO of electronic communications company Open-Xchange, said: “While we don't know the full story around Blackberry’s decision to pull out of Pakistan, it should still be a clear warning sign for David Cameron and Theresa May: If you force providers to compromise encryption policies that are the basis of their value proposition they will simply withhold their services from your citizens.
“Providers have responsibilities to users beyond their borders, so countries compromising such responsibilities run the risk of being excluded from service.
“Blackberry should be praised for its commitment to protecting the privacy rights of its global customers.”
The UK government has recently drafted its Investigatory Powers Bill that will allow it spy on the smartphones and internet connections of suspected criminals.
It will also oblige communication companies to cooperate with UK law enforcement when they request electronic communications data of individual users.
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