Brazil, EU Take Pride In Temporarily Avoiding The NSA With New Joint Undersea Cable Run

from the undersea-blowback dept

Long before there was Edward Snowden (or even an NSA), there have, unsurprisingly, been government intelligence operatives gifted at tapping communications networks, be they via satellite dish or undersea cables. In fact, before Snowden, back when most people (including most of the press) treated total surveillance as the incoherent ramblings of paranoids, there was Echelon. The highly-confidential program, jointly operated by the U.S., U.K., Australia, Canada and New Zealand, truly took off in the 1960s, and focused on using any means necessary to gather communications intelligence. The program started with a focus on intercepting satellite lines, then shifted to undersea cable taps, microwave transmission intercepts, and other options.

Currently, Brazil (justly none too happy with our voracious surveillance appetites) relies on U.S. undersea cables to carry almost all of its communications to Europe. That should change soon with a joint announcement that Brazil and the EU are building an undersea communications cable from Lisbon to Fortaleza to further reduce Brazil's reliance on the United States:
"At a summit in Brussels, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said the $185 million cable project was central to "guarantee the neutrality" of the Internet, signaling her desire to shield Brazil's Internet traffic from U.S. surveillance. "We have to respect privacy, human rights and the sovereignty of nations. We don't want businesses to be spied upon," Rousseff told a joint news conference with the presidents of the European Commission and the European Council. "The Internet is one of the best things man has ever invented. So we agreed for the need to guarantee ... the neutrality of the network, a democratic area where we can protect freedom of expression," Rousseff said."
To pretend the NSA lacks the ability to simply tap this new cable run, nab that same data at any of a million interconnection points, or just get it handed to them by other intelligence agencies is perhaps either naive, a bit of political salesmanship for the project, or both. Still, it's another instance of how the NSA revelations have significantly tarnished international/U.S. relations, resulting in a large number of countries making it a point of pride to avoid using U.S. technology. That's not going to be particularly great for U.S. industry, and we're likely only just seeing the tip of the iceberg.

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  1. icon
    John Fenderson (profile), 3 Mar 2014 @ 9:16am

    Re: Re:

    "Do taps on undersea cables cause degradation?"

    They certainly can. Tapping an undersea cable involves physically damaging the cable to install the tap. Improperly done, this could indeed cause premature failure.

    "This may presently be impractical on such a large scale, but it won't be forever"

    This is not impractical on a large scale at all.

    "Having more routes is not necessarily fragmenting of the net."

    Precisely so. More routes == greater redundancy == more reliable internet.

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