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We're building undersea cable to thwart US spying, say Brazil and Europe

A joint EU-Brazil plan to lay a new submarine cable looks to have been prompted by fears of communications interception by the NSA.
Written by Jo Best, Contributor

Brazil and the EU have reaffirmed plans to lay a new undersea cable in an effort to avoid spying by US authorities.

The cable, which will stretch from Portugal to Brazil, was discussed on Monday by the president of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, and the Brazilian president, Dilma Rousseff, at the seventh EU-Brazil Summit in Brussels.

The cable will be installed by Brazil's state-owned telecom provider Telebras and Spain's IslaLink Submarine Cables. It will be laid between the Portuguese capital of Lisbon and the Brazilian city of Fortaleza at a cost of $185m, and will be operational from next year.

The EU hopes the cable will cut interconnectivity costs, improve broadband take-up, and boost investment in R&D, Van Rompuy said, as well as "enhance the protection of communications".

"We share the common interest of protecting a free and open internet, which has spurred tremendous economic and social progress. At the same time, we will continue to enhance data protection and global privacy standards. A new fibre-optic submarine cable — connecting Latin America directly with Europe — would make an important contribution to these efforts," he said.

Rousseff told a news conference yesterday that the project is designed to "guarantee the neutrality" of the internet, according to Reuters. "We have to respect privacy, human rights and the sovereignty of nations. We don't want businesses to be spied upon," she said.

Rousseff's comments look to be a riposte to recent reports the NSA had been tapping undersea cables out of Europe, and that Rousseff herself had also been targeted by the spy agency.

The cable plan was part of a package of measures agreed between the EU and Brazil yesterday, including closer cooperation on cloud strategies. The summit also saw the creation of the EU-Brazil Dialogue on International Cyber Policy which will "address a number of specific priority areas, including the right to freedom of expression and privacy".

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