Pakistan has ordered all mobile service providers in the country to cease customer access to BlackBerry Enterprise Services by Nov. 30.

The directive comes from the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, which says that the ban is due to security concerns with the service.

BlackBerry Enterprise Services (BES) allows users to create secure communication networks, encrypting both messages and emails and storing the data at BlackBerry data centers. By establishing secure networks, the government cannot track these messages.

"There was a challenge that the BlackBerry email service could not be tracked or decoded, which leads to the security reasons," Khurram Mehran, a spokesperson of PTA, told The Express Tribune.

The crackdown on the BlackBerry service comes just days after the rights charity Privacy International released a report that revealed Pakistan's intelligence agencies were increasing their surveillance initiatives. The government has used the Taliban has one of the reasons why it is beefing up electronic surveillance programs.

Back in 2013, Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence launched its own surveillance system that mirrors that of the NSA in the States to tap into domestic and international communications.

While security concerns are a legitimate reason to monitor mobile data, many see the ban as a way to threaten its citizen's privacy.

"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," a BlackBerry spokeswoman told The Wall Street Journal.

The BlackBerry Enterprise Services ban will not include other BlackBerry services like Messenger and BlackBerry Internet Services. The ban may also have little effect since there are only about 5,000 customers that use BES in Pakistan.

The Pakistan government previously asked the three main mobile service providers – Mobilisk, Ufone and Telenor Pakistan – to inform them when customers use private networks.

The mobile service providers are now expected to send a 90-day notice to customers that the BES connections will be closed.

This is not the first time a government has banned BlackBerry before. India, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia have all threatened bans before. The United Arab Emirates also made the same threats in 2010. BlackBerry has been able to prevent bans in the past by compromising with the governments.

Via: Ars Technica

Photo: Kārlis Dambrāns | Flickr

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