A Deep Dive Into The Unseen Networks, Undersea Cables and Surveillance

Have you ever wondered where does this internet work from? How can you send and receive plenty of information in just one click worldwide? 

Johnny Harris, the famous YouTuber and journalist, offers a comprehensive insight into the world of undersea communication cables, government surveillance, and the evolving landscape of global information control. A huge structure defies the modest surroundings in the centre of an ordinary New Jersey neighbourhood, hidden behind a state facade. From the outside, it looks like a typical warehouse with a slew of air conditioning equipment.

However, a keen observer from a vantage position might reveal the actual function of this edifice—an AT&T landing station. It is home to a maze of undersea cables, the lifelines that connect continents, governments, and individuals. What was once thought to be the pinnacle of global connectedness and communication has now been transformed into a war for power, surveillance, and control.

The story begins in 1858 with the installation of the first transatlantic copper wire, an innovation that changed global connectivity. The cables that snake over the ocean floor, reaching 1.4 million kilometres, allow for transporting massive amounts of data. Nonetheless, this huge network has created a hidden world of secrecy and surveillance.

Recent findings have revealed how these undersea cables, which were intended to join humanity, have been used for monitoring and intelligence gathering. The facade of innocence that surrounds seemingly regular infrastructure, such as the New Jersey warehouse, conceals a terrible truth: an AT&T landing station that acts as a gateway for worldwide data interception. Leaked documents and investigative reporting have shown similar camouflaged structures around the United States, all of which are involved in the secret collection and processing of large volumes of global communication data.

The most stunning information comes from data leaked by Edward Snowden in 2013. These documents revealed that the US National Security Agency (NSA), in partnership with several tech behemoths, coordinated a broad surveillance campaign that targeted not just a single cable but nearly every cable connected to the US. This all-encompassing strategy aims to gather every email, text message, and phone conversation exchanged, effectively transforming metadata into a powerful weapon of global surveillance.

The consequences are immense. Governments, driven by national security, have delved into the very veins that supply the lifeblood of global communication. The shift from connectivity to control has created a new type of power struggle—a race to dominate undersea cables for the sake of information mastery rather than technological growth.

The formerly visible separation between nations and corporations has widened. Governments collaborate with telecom behemoths such as AT&T and Verizon to acquire unprecedented access to the information flow.

The formerly visible separation between nations and corporations has widened. Governments collaborate with telecom massive corporations such as AT&T and Verizon to acquire unprecedented access to the information flow. The NSA and Britain's Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) partnership demonstrates that this alliance has expanded beyond domestic borders. This collaboration, powered by a common goal of assessing and exploiting data, has profound implications for the concept of privacy, civil liberties, and the fundamental core of individual freedom.

While the United States and its allies sought to exploit the power of these cables, China emerged as a vital participant in the global power game. The expansion of China's global cable network indicates the country's desire to establish technological prowess and tighten control over information. In contrast to the United States, China's unabashed embrace of mass surveillance and information management has resulted in a society in which data is power and power is control.

The world is at a crossroads in this age of hyper-connectivity. The wires that were supposed to connect us are increasingly exposing national differences. A new chapter in geopolitics is being written as big nations compete for supremacy in this undersea landscape. A fragmented reality arises, in which states construct their own infrastructures to transmit, control, and secure data, casting doubt on the once-universal dream of a connected world. Both China and America are laying cables all over the world, but they are not crossing. It appears that we are heading toward a divided planet.

Russia is also taking part in this. They are encroaching on our personal information, emails, telegrams, messages, phone conversations, and social media accounts, but who cares because we are getting faster internet? A globalized world is hyperconnected, but we are seeing a new set of divisions, countries not trusting each other, countries seeking to construct their own independent systems, both economically and militarily, but also with internet infrastructure. A chapter in which countries, particularly big ones, are more suspicious than ever before.

Not trusting the other half of the world to handle their data. In the end, we just want fast internet, connections with friends all over the world, and the assurance that we are safe without knowing the consequences.

Chart: SubmarineCableMap

Read next: China's Bold Move: A Digital Identity Revolution in the Metaverse

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