A new transatlantic submarine cable avoids GCHQ eyes

But guess who’s funding it?

Photo: Microsoft

Photo: Microsoft

Submarine fibre optic cables—they’re the little-talked about infrastructure networks that underpin global communications; in fact, you’re almost certainly relying on one right now. Today, the highest-capacity submarine cable to ever cross the Atlantic—the MAREA, Spanish for ‘tide’—will make landfall.

Funded by Microsoft and Facebook, the 6,600-kilometre MAREA project will ultimately link Spain to America’s east coast, making it one of the few cable systems that directly connects North America to the European continent (two existing cables run directly to France but subsequently run through the UK).

Seven of the 10 existing transatlantic lines transit through the UK, where the country’s signals intelligence agency, GCHQ, has distinguished itself for its ability to intercept, tap and copy data from undersea cables under the Tempora program. This data, which includes everything from emails to images to Facebook conversations and everything in-between, is subsequently shared with America’s NSA.

Whistle-blower Edward Snowdon says the Brits are “worse than the US” when it comes to large-scale online surveillance; documents he released show GCHQ lawyers boasting that the UK has a “light oversight regime”.

By bypassing the UK, MAREA will be the first transatlantic cable shielded from the prying eyes of British intelligence—something privacy advocates the world over will be cheering.


The post has been updated to reflect that MAREA will ultimately connect Spain to the US and also clarifies the existence of current cables directly linking the two continental landmasses.