SAN FRANCISCO -- BlackBerry will exit the Pakistani market before the end of the year thanks to the government's demand for unfettered "backdoor" access to user data. The Canadian tech company made the announcement Monday, saying its last day of service in Pakistan will be Dec. 3o.
BlackBerry and many other tech companies help governments around the globe fight crime by giving up user data during certain scenarios, especially when warrants are issued, but Pakistan wanted the ability to monitor all emails and messages sent by BlackBerry enterprise customers within the country, the handset maker said in a blog post.
"Protecting that security is paramount to our mission," BlackBerry said. "While we recognize the need to cooperate with lawful government investigative requests of criminal activity, we have never permitted wholesale access to our BES [BlackBerry Enterprise Service] servers.”
The Pakistan Telecommunications Authority gave BlackBerry a shutdown order in July, saying the company would not be allowed to operate within Pakistan unless it gave the government access to enterprise user data. Rather than comply, BlackBerry has decided to leave the country.
Worldwide, tech companies are engaged in a debate with governments that are demanding "backdoor" access to user data as a way to monitor terrorist and criminal activity and keep the public safe, but the tech industry argues that this type of access would create more harm and potentially make it easier for hackers, criminals and terrorist to gain access to the sensitive user data companies are tasked with protecting.
BlackBerry's decision to pull out of Pakistan is a win for those who argue against creating back doors. But the company is estimated to have only about 5,000 BES users in the market, so exiting Pakistan is not expected to cause a major dent in revenue. Additionally, Pakistan already appears to be backtracking from its ultimatum.
Originally, Pakistan's shutdown order was for Nov. 30, but after BlackBerry announced its intention to leave, the government extended its shutdown order by a month, the company said. "While we regret leaving this important market and our valued customers there, remaining in Pakistan would have meant forfeiting our commitment to protect our users’ privacy," BlackBerry said. "That is a compromise we are not willing to make."