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The European Commission has come under fire after awarding British Telecom (BT) a €1.2 billion contract for telecoms services that manage highly sensitive EU communications.
According to people familiar with the matter, following a call for tenders, the Commission has provisionally given the green light to manage its so-called trans-European services for telematics between administrations (TEST) to UK operator BT, a move that has sparked concerns over privacy and security, as well as the EU’s broader ambitions for digital sovereignty.
The choice of a non-EU company caused particular unease among European telecoms companies, which had also tried to win the tender but failed to persuade the Commission to select their project.
“The Commission cannot fulfill its ambitions for strategic autonomy when bureaucratic loopholes allow non-EU countries with a history of privacy abuse to benefit from multi-billion dollar contracts,” said one person with knowledge of the tender process on condition of anonymity confidential nature of the talks.
“This company will manage the transmission of very sensitive data sent between public bodies and paid for by EU citizens. The risk of more widespread disclosure of this information is dangerous,” the person added. The claims were supported by two other people involved in the bidding process.
The TESTA service is intended to be a fully private “backbone” network that maintains the confidentiality and privacy of communications. It connects EU agencies and bodies across the continent, from the Commission in Brussels to Europol, the EU cybersecurity agency ENISA or the European Defense Agency.
The Commission says the network connects more than 750 public bodies and is designed for “sensitive pan-European information sharing”. The previous contract was held by Deutsche Telekom and several EU-based firms were in the running for the latest deal, people close to the matter confirmed.
“This smacks of hypocrisy,” the person added. “At a time when the Commission is promoting its goal of strategic autonomy, it is outsourcing the management of sensitive communications to third countries. For those who supported Brexit, this proves you can leave the EU but your companies can still rake in billions -euro EU deals.”
However, BT had managed to win first place for the tender after applying through its Belgian subsidiary BT Global Services Belgium, people close to the matter confirmed. Delivery of the services was due to start last year but had been delayed and is now expected to start later this year. The contract period is eight years.
However, in the period since the provisional award of the contract, the Commission has had to suspend the signature of the framework contract until the concerns raised have been examined.
For its part, the Commission declined to respond to POLITICO’s request for comment.
BT said it would not comment on rumors or speculation. “BT operates one of the most secure and resilient global networks, trusted by the world’s leading multinationals and international organizations,” said a spokesman.
The UK’s track record of intrusive espionage and surveillance programs has long raised concerns in Brussels. His membership in the Five Eyes security alliance led to his involvement in the United States’ Echelon surveillance program, which aims to monitor global data traffic, including political targets, over satellite transmissions and Internet and telephone lines. Around the turn of the millennium, the initiative led to the establishment of a separate parliamentary EU committee self-expressed concerns about the existence of this transnational surveillance system.
More recently, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) called in a 2018 ruling that British authorities violated privacy rights in their mass surveillance program and unlawfully shared data with global partners.
This article has been updated.
https://www.politico.eu/article/outrage-eu-deal-uk-bt-confidential-network/?utm_source=RSS_Feed&utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=RSS_Syndication Outrage after the EU signed a mega deal with a British company to handle confidential data - POLITICO