By Eric Lieberman
A European-owned business is now the facilitator and manager of billions of phone calls and text messages across the United States.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) decided earlier this week that Ericsson, the Swedish tech conglomerate will oversee the routing system of one of America’s main communication infrastructures.
The original routing system was established in the 1990s with the purpose of allowing people to retain their specific cellphone numbers anytime they chose to switch services. Later law enforcement entities began using it to surveille people during investigations.
A New Jersey subsidiary of Ericcsson called Telcordia won the bid for the contract, which is reported to be worth roughly $1 billion by The New York Times. The prior government contract was with Neustar, an American technology company based in Virginia. Neustar sued the FCC last year for creating a faulty and unfair bidding process.
The prospect of a Swedish company, not an American company, overseeing so many phone calls and text messages has raised privacy and security concerns.
Michael Chertoff, former secretary of homeland security who now leads his own eponymous security consulting firm called the Chertoff Group, sent a reportto the FCC detailing the potential repercussions of handing this responsibility to a foreign company. In the 45-page assessment, Chertoff concluded that the FCC’s decision could render the nation’s security “obsolete in the face of constantly morphing threats,” according to The New York Times.
Neustar contends that Telcordia should not be considered at all since they reneged on their agreement to hire only citizens of the United States. Some of the biggest wireless carriers, however, petitioned for Telcordia because they offer cheaper services, while smaller more remote carriers campaigned for Neustar.
David G. Simpson, a retired admiral and chief of the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, filed a report this week explaining that the FCC and the FBI were able to survey Telcordia’s infrastructure. The two agencies received a “detailed walk-through” for multiple sites that Telcordia will use for communication databases and both expressed confidence in Telcordia’s job to meet the FCC’s security demands.
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