Brexit fury as EU signs deal with BT to tackle confidential data – ‘Smacks of hypocrisy’

European Union has a ‘design flaw’ says expert

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Critics have argued that awarding the contract to a non-EU company could raise concerns about privacy and security given that the British company will be handling highly sensitive communications. One individual with knowledge of the tender process said it was potentially “perilous” given that sensitive communications could potentially leak outside the bloc.

They told Politico: “The Commission can’t fulfil its ambitions for strategic autonomy when bureaucratic loopholes allow for non-EU countries with a history of abusing privacy to benefit from multibillion contracts.

“This company will be managing the transmission of very sensitive data being sent between public bodies that are paid for by EU citizens. Risking the wider exposure of this information is perilous.

“This smacks of hypocrisy. At a time in which the Commission is pitching its objective of strategic autonomy, it is outsourcing the management of sensitive communications to third countries.

“For those that supported Brexit, this proves that you can leave the EU but your companies can still cream off billion-euro EU contracts.

The Trans-European Services for Telematics between Administrations (TESTA) is meant to be a fully private “backbone” network that preserves the confidentiality and privacy of communications.

It links EU agencies and bodies across the Continent, from the Commission in Brussels to the likes of Europol, the EU’s cybersecurity agency ENISA, or the European Defense Agency.

The commission has said the network connects more than 750 public entities and is designed for “sensitive pan-European information exchanges.”

Deutsche Telekom held the previous contract and several EU firms had been in the running to win the new contract.  

BT had managed to win first place for the tender after applying through its Belgian subsidiary, BT Global Services Belgium.

The term of the contract is eight years and the provision of services due to commence last year will begin this year.

In the time since the contract was awarded, however, it is understood that the Commission has had to suspend the signature of the framework contract, pending a review of the concerns raised.

A spokesperson for BT wouldn’t comment on speculation but emphasised the “secure” and “resilient” nature of the organisation. 

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They said: “BT operates one of the most secure and resilient global networks, which is trusted by the world’s leading multinational companies and international organisations.”

In the past Brussels has been concerned about the impacts of intrusive British espionage and the UK’s membership of the Five Eyes security alliance.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) said in a 2018 ruling that UK authorities had violated privacy rights in its mass surveillance program, as well as having unlawfully shared data with global partners.

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