back to article Google and Facebook abandon Hong Kong landing of new submarine cable

Google and Facebook have dumped plans to build an undersea cable between the US and Hong Kong after US security agencies warned that Beijing could use the link to infiltrate American networks. In a revised proposal [PDF] submitted to the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) late last week, the consortium …

  1. Mike 137 Silver badge

    Let's just hope

    This would be a valuable contribution to the internet infrastructure, unless Goooo and/or FB decide to control or snoop on the traffic on it. What's the chance of that happening?

    1. Mike the FlyingRat
      Boffin

      Re: Let's just hope

      FB? Not much.

      Google? Possibly. But you have to consider the vast amount of data. This includes encrypted traffic.

      So at that high speed rate of data... its not really possible unless you're monitoring specific data streams.

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: Let's just hope

        Google's primary purpose in existing is parsing lots of data into a useful user model that lets them microtarget. They're not great at it, but their secondary purpose is pretending to parse lots of data in order to microtarget, and to prove that they're doing so they collect lots of data. They're pretty good at that purpose.

        It's not easy to capture and store the data coming through a large international cable. Disk speeds aren't sufficient to do it. However, Google has a lot of programmers who work on big data-crunching programs with dubious usefulness, so they have the kind of expertise they need to write a program to extract potentially mineable data from that massive flow. For example, they could track certain metrics of specific addresses to map frequent data flows. Depending on the IP allocation to average American connections, this could be easy (IPV6, IPV4 where the carrier isn't low on addresses) or a little trickier (client is behind CGNAT). Similarly, they could log and store the first few packets of an encrypted flow, where potentially unencrypted initiating information such as domain names or a cleartext HTTP request which hasn't yet been redirected to HTTPS can be found. Is there reason to do this? No. If you're looking to advertise, you wouldn't want to waste that much energy on information that's likely to be polluted and hard to get anyway. However, you also wouldn't do all sorts of other tracking that Google has done, so whether it makes sense isn't the best metric to decide whether Google will attempt it.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Let's just hope

          Actually they don't.

          Do the math.

          Which is why I said they would have to target specific streams.

          Add to this if the traffic is encrypted (e.g. TLS) Even simple encryption which can be broken in relative time would mean that the traffic would have to be captured the key broken and then gobbled.

          Google can get much more worthwhile data by snarfing your DNS requests and from the google analytics which websites still use.

  2. Warm Braw Silver badge

    USA's Clean Network

    I think the graph theory definition is disconnected.

    It rather reminds me of all those fears of the French invading through a putative channel tunnel when in reality a bunch of Brits used it to buy up the Dordogne.

    1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

      Re: USA's Clean Network

      It rather reminds me of all those fears of the French invading through a putative channel tunnel when in reality a bunch of Brits used it to buy up the Dordogne.

      Yep, invasion from within - a trawl of UK land registry records for the last 15-20 years would be a start

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: USA's Clean Network

        But this is like having the tunnel exit in Belgium to stop the French invading!

        Unless they don't plan to connect the American end you can still get to America's internet

        1. cracked and broken

          Re: USA's Clean Network

          Of course the internet is just IP regardless of how many intermediaries there are and cutting off this leg of the cable isn't really going to stop the traffic flowing somehow.

          But one of the benefits of a direct point to point fibre link that you can achieve very low latency and we already know that stock markets will pay huge money for cutting the round trip times by a millisecond or two.

          With Hong Kong being the fourth single largest stock market in the world (according to Wikipedia) I am guessing this is more about trade wars than spying.

        2. Francis Boyle Silver badge

          I think the Marginot Line

          is the megastructure comparison you're looking for.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Proper encryption

    You know, if the Spooks had allowed us to have encryption that couldn't be broken, it wouldn't be a problem that the infrastructure routed via China...

    ...but no, IPSec features and DANE were squashed, because they couldn't man-in-the-middle the connection with their "compromised" root CAs.

    1. Smooth Newt Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: Proper encryption

      You know, if the Spooks had allowed us to have encryption that couldn't be broken, it wouldn't be a problem that the infrastructure routed via China...

      Even under this hypothetical circumstance it would still be a mistake. For example:

      1. Encryption implementation flaws, along the lines of heartbleed.

      2. You don't know what cryptanalysis breakthroughs Government agencies have made, or will make in future.

      3. The link can be switched off with the announcement of "technical problems" etc with little comeback. Physically tampering with a cable on the bottom of an ocean is difficult, expensive and liable to leave an embarrassing smoking gun.

      4. Potentially interesting bits of traffic can be collected and stored for later decryption if/when that becomes possible.

      5. Lots can be done by looking at traffic patterns or by just messing with it.

      6. Even today, about 10% of Internet traffic isn't even encrypted.

      1. Yes Me Silver badge
        Flame

        Re: Proper encryption

        The Internet runs on redundant paths. So yes, a political shutdown of a route via China would be a nuisance and would reduce global capacity. But no, it wouldn't break the Internet. That's what BGP4 is all about (even when it has a hissy fit like was reported yesterday, it doesn't break the Internet).

        Surveillance and weak crypto is a concern. So is DDOS. But the fact that a path goes through China isn't really important even for that; spooks exist everywhere.

        This whole "clean Internet" stuff is political grandstanding and technical nonsense. It's just another battlefront in the trade war that Trump has started.

        1. Smooth Newt Silver badge
          Megaphone

          Re: Proper encryption

          The Internet runs on redundant paths. So yes, a political shutdown of a route via China would be a nuisance and would reduce global capacity.

          So they are chucking $400 million into the sea on something that isn't needed. How is that good business sense?

  4. Ashto5

    Who IS The Worst

    China or the USA?

    Both do things only for themselves, they will trample over any country or perceived rights you or I have.

    In the last 30 years has it NOT become apparent that the rest of the world does not matter to these guys only your money.

    1. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Who IS The Worst

      Welcome to history, my friend.

    2. martynhare

      Re: Who IS The Worst

      The US, while a little bit behind on modern democratic models, at least allows for open criticism of its policies and people. China doesn’t even pretend to allow you that freedom.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Who IS The Worst

        America was lucky in wiping out its natives before digital cameras

  5. Imhotep Silver badge

    "Although the filing confirms that the The Hong Kong section of the cable is currently built, the companies "are not seeking authority" to operate the section."

    So that leg is already built, but we're supposed to believe they are not going to use it? My money is on they will use it, and already have their weasel words read to explain how they were conforming to their own interpretation of what they agreed to.

    1. Claptrap314 Silver badge

      There are fine lines when playing games with governments. Sanctions-busting is on the other side of just about all of them. FB & Goog are US-based entities. Every aspect of their activity is subject to US policies. I REALLY doubt they would try anything.

      1. Imhotep Silver badge

        Do you really think that either compamy is not going to use that wide band pipe to Hong Kong? My guess is that the traffic will flow through an intermediary first, allowing both to say they have no control over the traffic once it leaves their pipe.

        Facebook and Google have no problem crossing any lines. Example: Since the 1960s it has been explicitly forbidden to restrict real estate marketing based on race, a practice known as red lining. Facebook had no problem violating the Civil Rights Acts by offering the ability to do specifically that, target real estate ads based on race. What kind of people would even consider doing that?

        Has either company ever really paid a cost for their bad acts?

        1. martynhare

          Unfortunately that’s not illegal, here’s why...

          The legislation you’re referring to doesn’t stop someone from only posting adverts in places where only the “desired target audience” can find it. All Facebook offered to do was show the adverts in only the places the advertiser wanted them shown. Your news feed is a different “place” to my news feed, even though we use the same reference string to locate them.

          Sadly, it’s too easy to play devils advocate with this one.

          1. Imhotep Silver badge

            Re: Unfortunately that’s not illegal, here’s why...

            From an article on this in the NYT: "Those who chose to could buy ads that excluded ethnic “affinity groups” like African-Americans, Asian-Americans and Hispanics in Facebook’s housing advertising category."

            A link to the article: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/28/us/politics/facebook-housing-discrimination.html

            1. Cliffwilliams44

              Re: Unfortunately that’s not illegal, here’s why...

              OMG the Trump administration sued Facebook for their discriminatory tactics! How is this possible! We have been hearing for the last 3.6 years that everyone in the Trump administration are Evil Racist! Even Carson, who we all know is just a house n****r!

              This has to be Fake News I say, FAKE NEWS!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "So that leg is already built, but we're supposed to believe they are not going to use it? My money is on they will use it, and already have their weasel words read to explain how they were conforming to their own interpretation of what they agreed to."

      If they haven't landed it in HK then yes, they're not using it.

      They may land it in HK in the future if the political situation changes, but its more cost effective to have an approved cable landing in the US/Taiwan/Philippines and cut your losses on HK in the short-term. The HK landing would just be more dead cost.

      No conspiracy....

      1. Imhotep Silver badge

        The article states "The Hong Kong section of the cable is currently built".

        1. Francis Boyle Silver badge

          Built

          but not plugged in.

  6. Version 1.0 Silver badge
    Boffin

    New icon please El Reg

    Can we have a new icon please? ... Just a pair of wire-cutters, or an axe for these subjects. Tag it as "Perfect Security"

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So the USA is mad that China would spy on the Chinese end of the pipe? Neglecting the fact the USA is already spying on the American end of the pipe?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Spying is just the excuse - this is about control and politics.

      The FCC can stop the US leg of the cable being used, so bend over, bow to your masters and take the coin you can.

  8. Sanctimonious Prick
    FAIL

    Routing

    I would suppose it is safe to assume the Trump Amin. have no idea about how routing and networks work.

    1. Mark 110

      Re: Routing

      Safe to assume the politicians don't understand the tech. But this is about politics. Fairly sure someone told them internet traffic gets to china regardless of a fast pipe. It just goes the long way around.

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