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. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Mar 2014 @ 4:10am

    Your point was one of the first things I thought of when I heard of a new undersea cable being planned. I think the biggest reason they are planning this is that from what I've read the old cable has degraded and now they can only use it for phone communications.

    The second thought was that Brazil's first thought of a run was to Sweden. Crap they just as well run it straight to the US as to go to Sweden for all the difference it would make.

    The US is very capable of putting a tap deep enough that Brazil isn't going to be able to reach it if they could find it.

    I've said for a good while here that the repercussions coming off the Snowden revelations would be a while in coming but come they would. You have Brazil talking a new undersea cable, you have Germany and France talking new net connections that totally route out the US for email and probably eventually all EU net connections and this is just the start of those determined to do something about it. More governments and corporations with secrets to keep will be looking at doing something about it. The end result could be a fragmenting of the net globally.

    These yoyos had to know this would come at some point. That sooner or later, no matter how tight your security it is going to get out. That day is dawning.

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