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Google and Meta win U.S. security agency backing for Pacific cable

A sign outside the Robert F. Kennedy Department of Justice building in Washington.
The Justice Department has signed off on a plan by Google and Meta to lay an undersea cable linking the U.S. to Taiwan and the Philippines.
(Associated Press)

U.S. security officials recommended approval for Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Facebook Inc. parent Meta Platforms Inc. to build an undersea fiber optic cable linking the U.S. to Taiwan and the Philippines.

The companies agreed to restrict access to equipment and information for Hong Kong-based partner Pacific Light Data Communication Co., which earlier withdrew its application for a link to Hong Kong, the Justice Department said in a news release Friday.

“These agreements enable Google and Meta to take advantage of critical, additional cable capacity while protecting U.S. persons’ privacy and security through terms that reflect the current threat environment,” said Assistant Atty. Gen. Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s national security division.

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The companies proposed the Pacific Light Cable Network project in 2017, listing all three trans-Pacific destinations. American security agencies in 2020 asked the FCC to deny the link to Hong Kong, saying it would give China a way to acquire Americans’ personal data. The agencies called Pacific Light Data a subsidiary of mainland China’s Dr. Peng Telecom & Media Group Co.

Just in time for Shark Week comes news that Google has had to protect its underwater cables from biting sharks.

The data-sharing restrictions announced Friday reflect the Chinese government’s “sustained efforts to acquire the sensitive personal data of millions of U.S. persons,” the Justice Department said in its statement. It also cited the Chinese government’s access to other countries’ data through digital infrastructure investments, and recent intelligence and cybersecurity laws.

The security agencies on Friday recommended that the Federal Communications Commission approve the cable, which now lacks a Hong Kong link.

The companies’ agreements were made with the departments of Justice, Defense and Homeland Security in their roles as members of the committee for the Assessment of Foreign Participation in the U.S. Telecommunications and Services Sector, known informally as Team Telecom.

“We are encouraged by the administration’s recommendation,” a Meta spokesperson said in an email. “This cable system increases internet capacity between the two countries to help people stay connected and share content, like photos and videos” via cables that feature advanced encryption.

Google didn’t immediately respond to an emailed query, nor did the FCC.


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