Displaying items by tag: Politics

What happened to Google and Facebook’s subsea cable plans?

Written on Thursday, 10 September 2020 09:11

Following security concerns from US officials, it has been announced that Google and Facebook have scrapped plans for a giant subsea cable from Los Angeles to Hong Kong.

The Pacific Light Cable Network (PLCN) was first announced in 2016, with backing from Google, Facebook and other companies including Pacific Light Data Communication and TE SubCom.

The PLCN is a high-capacity fiber-optic undersea cable running for approximately 12,800km under the Pacific Ocean between Hong Kong and Los Angeles. In 2016, Google said that the PLCN would have an estimated capacity of 120TB per second, making it the highest capacity trans-Pacific route.

“In other words, PLCN will provide enough capacity for Hong Kong to have 80m concurrent HD video conference calls with Los Angeles,” the company said at the time.

The 12,800 km long cable has already been laid, costing hundreds of millions of dollars. However it needs permission from the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in order to operate.

Breakdown of plans

A US government committee, known as Team Telecom, raised concerns about Dr. Peng Telecom and Media Group’s involvement, citing its "relationship with Chinese intelligence and security services".

While Google and Facebook can be considered the most high-profile stakeholders, much of the cable’s fiber optics belong to Pacific Light Data Communication, which is owned by Dr. Peng Telecom.

In light of these concerns and the delays they were causing, Google sought permission from the FCC to activate only the self-owned portions of the subsea cable network in February 2020, effectively cutting Pacific Light Data Communication from the project.

In April of this year, Google were awarded temporary authority for construction and testing. The FCC said it would allow the company to operate the segment of cable between the US and Taiwan – but not Hong Kong – for six months, pending a final disposition of the license application.

However, as tensions between the US and China continue to grow, it became increasingly likely that US officials would reject the use of the cable on the grounds of national security.

What’s happening now?

While the special temporary authority wasn’t due to expire until the end of September, Bloomberg reported a few weeks ago that Google and Facebook have dumped their original plans for a subsea cable between the US and Hong Kong.

Instead, the companies submitted a revised proposal that incorporates the links to Taiwan and the Philippines, but crucially leaves out Hong Kong-based Pacific Light Data Communication.

A spokesperson for Google told the BBC: “We can confirm that the original application for the PLCN cable system has been withdrawn, and a revised application for the US-Taiwan and US-Philippines portions of the system has been submitted.

“We continue to work through established channels to obtain cable landing licenses for our undersea cables.”

While the fight to use the PLCN drags on, Google also announced in July of this year that it is building another subsea cable, named the ‘Grace Hopper’ cable, connecting the UK, US and Spain.

The cable marks Google’s first investment in a private subsea cable route to the UK and its first ever route to Spain. Today, 98pc of international internet traffic is carried around the world by subsea cables.

Published in Infrastructure

Huawei’s Chief Financial Officer, Meng Wanzhou, raised a new argument which accused the Canadian police and border agents of colluding with the FBI.

At a court hearing in a British Columbia Supreme Court on Monday, Meng’s defense lawyer, David Martin, has argued that Canadian officials purposely delayed her arrest in December 2018 by several days in order to gather evidence for the FBI during the stopover. Adding that the “pre-planned scheme” gave authorities the opportunity to go through her personal electronic devices by pretending that it was a part of customs inspections.

Her team of lawyers have also claimed that the case the US submitted to Canada was “so replete with intentional and reckless error” that it violated her rights.

The court had previously heard that the Canada Border Service Agency had placed Meng’s devices in “signal-blocking” bags, at the request of the FBI. Also, the FBI allegedly requested the electronic serial numbers and images of her devices.

Meng, the daughter of Huawei’s Founder and CEO, Ren Zhengfei, has claimed that she is innocent. She is wanted in the US for fraud that is linked to Iran sanctions.

Her lawyer deemed the US extradition request “an extravagant extraterritorial jurisdictional reach”. Martin also pointed out a Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) memo which specifically stated that the FBI would not be present at Meng’s arrest in an effort to “avoid the perception of influence” as proof that the CSIS was “conscious of obscuring the involvement of the FBI”.

In the memo, the CSIS also warned that the arrest of the 48 year-old CFO would be a “highly political” issue, that it would “send shock waves around the world” and would definitely become “a significant bilateral issue” for Canada and China.

Zhao Lijian, the Chinese foreign ministry’s spokesperson, said that the memo showed “once again that the whole Meng Wanzhou case is a serious political incident”.

Adding that, “It speaks volumes about the US political calculations to purposefully suppress Huawei and other Chinese high-tech companies.”

"We once again urge Canada to take China's solemn position and concerns seriously, immediately release Meng and ensure her safe return to China, and not to go further down the wrong path," he said.

Published in Reports

Huawei’s Charles Yang deems US allegations ‘unfounded’

Written on Thursday, 20 February 2020 08:01

Charles Yang, President for Huawei Middle East, commented on the US allegations deeming them to be unfounded and reaffirms the tech behemoth’s commitment to value creation with local telecom, enterprise, and government partners.

Despite the challenges posed by a US entity list ban, Huawei’s top executive in the Middle East said at a press conference in Oman that the region’s geographic location is strategically beneficial for the company in the way that it works closely with both governments and the private sector to advance security, collaboration, and innovation for the digital era.

The comments by Charles Yang, President of Huawei Middle East, come at a time when Huawei remains the world’s largest telecommunications-equipment manufacturer, a top global smartphone and smart device brand, and a digital solutions provider to thousands of companies in sectors like finance, transportation, energy, and government.

Within the region, ICT is also becoming a national basic infrastructure as technologies like 5G, AI, and cloud computing act as drivers for digital transformation.

According to Yang, Huawei has been leading 5G expansion in the Middle East as part of the first wave of deployments worldwide, and will focus on vertical industry, ecosystem, and 5G talent development in 2020. This has been powered by investments of USD4 billion in 5G research since 2009.

The company is also bringing its 5G OpenLab concept to the Middle East, providing the local ICT sector with an environment in which it can experience, innovate, and verify the latest 5G applications with operators and partners.

“The downward pressure on many regional economies and even the global market has intensified in 2019 and the start of 2020. All of us need to dig deep into the opportunities presented by digital transformation. Most organizations across the Middle East now recognize the value that can be created by this transformation, and as such, it is a key region for Huawei in terms of technology collaboration, innovation, and developing business models suited to the digital era,” said Yang.

As a result of its R&D investment focus, Huawei has been able to lead the deployment of 5G technologies globally with more than 700 cities and 228 Fortune Global 500 companies having chosen Huawei as their digital transformation partner. As part of its efforts to lead new technology ecosystems, Huawei also recently released its Huawei Mobile Services (HMS) Core 4.0 platform, marking an important milestone for Huawei in building a set of applications and services for its consumer device ecosystem.

Central to its R&D strategy has been a long-term knowledge transfer program to develop talent in the Middle East, for the Middle East, according to Yang. That requires technology leaders working with customers, partners, developers, industry alliances, and standards organizations to build an interdependent ecosystem that fosters shared growth.

For its part, Huawei's flagship ‘Seeds for the Future’ program and annual ICT Competition program will continue in the Middle East in 2020 and support creativity among ICT students to increase national competitiveness.

Alongside 5G innovation and talent development, Yang recognized that cybersecurity does remain a vital issue for the region’s ICT industry.

When asked about the challenges posed to Huawei specifically by the current US administration, Yang responded, “Our Rotating Chairman, Eric Xu, recently observed that some state actors may continue to suppress the development of leading technologies. They are choosing to build walls rather than connecting people and ideas. Despite concerted efforts by some to keep us down, I think many of us feel a renewed sense of purpose and value at Huawei.”

He added that Huawei is only an equipment supplier and that accessing customer networks without their authorization and visibility would be impossible. On a practical level, Huawei does not have the ability to bypass carriers, access control, and take data from their networks without being detected by all normal firewalls or security systems.

“Today cybersecurity is an issue for all countries, governments, and companies. It is also a journey—not a destination. As such, we need measures in place applying to telecom operators and equipment suppliers so that there is an objective, verifiable basis for knowing which products and services are worthy of the public’s trust. Our customers and us see this as a strategic priority,” added Yang.

The executive noted that Huawei has long committed to helping partners in the region to address cybersecurity challenges and has been a partner of choice for telecom carriers for 5G network development through a broad range of end-to-end solutions. Yang also said that Huawei is ready to sign no-spy, no-backdoor agreements with any and all entities in the Middle East region.

In the last few months, Huawei has been approved to continue supplying 5G technologies in markets such as the UK and the European Union, with countries like Germany and France also accepting Huawei 5G despite US pressure. Abraham Liu, Huawei Chief Representative to the EU Institutions, has confirmed that Huawei is working with European governments to develop common standards to strengthen the security and reliability of those networks.

Huawei has also confirmed that it has no cooperation with the company Crypto AG. A recent report by the Washington Post noted that the CIA used Crypto AG to covertly access telecom networks worldwide, spying on other countries for decades.

Australia cybersecurity expert Hank Wolfe has also documented how the US National Security Agency rigged encryption systems sold by Crypto AG, enabling the agency to read the coded diplomatic and military traffic of more than 120 countries.

Published in Telecom Vendors

The divided island of Cyprus’s leaders have decided to launch the country’s first newly integrated mobile phone network.

Published in Telecom Operators

Huawei founder denies ties to Chinese government

Written on Tuesday, 14 May 2019 11:41

The founder of Chinese tech giant Huawei said that he would “shut the company down” if the Chinese government asked them to eavesdrop on phone call conversations, according to a senior executive.

Published in Telecom Vendors

Mark Zuckerberg and French President Macron held a meeting at the Elysee Palace in an effort to crack down on the latest issues surrounding social media and the internet.

Published in Government

US reveals new 5G funding plan

Written on Monday, 15 April 2019 06:59

US officials revealed a plan to accelerate their deployment of 5G wireless networks with new funding estimated at $20.4 billion to build high-speed internet in rural areas.
At a White House event, the plans were unveiled by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to host new spectrum auctions for 5G technology which aims to “improve Americans’ lives in so many ways” according to FCC chairman Ajit Pai.

Published in Government

On Thursday, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was arrested by British Police at the embassy of Ecuador in London.

Published in Government

On Saturday, the Australian government pledged to introduce new laws on social media executives in light of the latest terrorist attack in New Zealand.

The new law would be imposed on social media executives of big tech companies which could lead up to a three-year prison sentence if they fail to remove extremist material from their platforms.

This new legislation is to be discussed in parliament next week.

Facebook has said that it removed around 1.5 million videos which comprised of the livestreamed massacre which took play on March 15 in Christchurch mosque in New Zealand. It was a 17-minute video which was filmed by the terrorist himself going on a rampage and killing 50 innocent people. This video was almost immediately available online and Facebook quickly took the video down several hours after the attack.

“Big social media companies have a responsibility to take evry possible action to ensure their technology products are not exploited by murderous terrorists,” said Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

Morrison met with several tech companies on Tuesday some of which included Facebook, Twitter and Google. At the meeting, Australia stated that it would advise other G20 countries to do the same and hold social media firms accountable.

At the meeting, Facebook said that it was “committed to working with leaders and communities” in order to “help counter hate speech and the threat of terrorism.” However, the tech company refused to give any further comments.

Attorney General Christian Porter said that the new legislation would make it a criminal offence if social media platforms fail to discard “abhorrent violent material” such as murder, rape and terror attacks.

The fines for such an offence are expected to be worth billions of dollars.

Porter stated, “Mainstream media hat broadcast such material would be putting their licence at risk and there is no reason why social media platforms should be treated any differently.”

Nigel Phair, a cybersecurity expert, hinted that this new law could not possibly imprison social media executives. He stated that jail was reserved for “serious criminal matters” and that executives based in Australia were not company “decision makers”.

“Jails is for violent offenders, not marketing representatives in Australia of an American social media company.”
He said that the social media firms could have done more than what they pledged to do on Tuesday. He added, “They didn’t read the tea leaves back then, it’ll be different how they read the tea leaves now.”

Published in Apps

House of Lords call for new centralized Digital Regulator

Written on Tuesday, 12 March 2019 08:16

The House of Lords has called for a new central digital super-regulator to be created in order to inspect the different bodies protecting the internet and to replace the ‘clearly failing’ system of self regulation in place.

The Lords’ communications committee report has recommended a new Digital Authority. The report warns that the contribution of several regulators for the digital realm can be more problematic than helpful as it creates overlaps and gaps.

The report also states that large tech companies have failed to tackle cybersecurity issues and Ofcom should, in the future, expand their services to involve implementing a duty of care on those companies.

Lord Gilbert of Panteg, Chair of the committee, stated: “The government should not just be responding to news headlines but looking ahead so that the services that constitute the digital world can be held accountable to an agreed set of principles.”

He continued: “Self-regulation by online platforms is clearly failing and the current regulatory framework is out of date. The evidence we heard made a compelling and urgent case for a new approach to regulation. Without intervention, the largest tech companies are likely to gain ever more control of technologies which extract personal data and make decisions affecting people’s lives.”

The Lords said that the new Digital Authority should be guided by 10 guiding principles pertaining to online regulation. Some of these basic principles include: transparency, parity, recognition of childhood, accountability, privacy and human rights.

Last month, a Digital Culture, Media and Sport committee held Facebook responsible for being run by “digital gangsters” and as a result, recommending that tech and social media companies could regulate themselves independently under a ‘code of ethics’ which could be overseen by Ofcom.

The report by the Lords echoed this sentiment. It stated that self-regulation from internet behemoths from the likes of Google and Facebook were “clearly failing”.

Lord Panteg wrote: “Policy makers across different sectors have not responded adequately to changes in the digital world.”
He added: "The Digital Authority should be empowered to instruct regulators to address specific problems or areas. In cases where this is not possible because problems are not within the remit of any regulator, the Digital Authority should advise the Government and Parliament that new or strengthened legal powers are needed.”

The report recommends many changes to already existing regulations whether the Digital Authority is created or not. An example of these proposed changes is the public interest test for mergers and acquisitions which would protect peoples’ data from being bought and sold with no prior consent from the individual.

Additionally, the report recognizes the power which this new Digital Authority would hold and justified it by stating: “This is necessary because of the magnitude of urgent social and political problems caused by regulatory fragmentation in the digital world. These problems are less likely to become more complex as technology develops.”

Internet giants such as Google, Amazon and Facebook were not held in high regard amongst the Lords, especially in the report.

It concluded, “Major platforms have failed to invest in their moderation systems, leaving moderators overstretched and inadequately trained. Online platforms should make community standards clearer through a new classification framework akin to that of the British Board of Film Classification.”

Published in Government
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