Norway’s Aftenposten has published an interesting account of the decisions taken by those who were formulating GSM – the world’s most widely deployed mobile telephony standard – in Europe in the early 80s. Sources told the paper that the British (and possibly others) put pressure on standards-setters to ensure a relatively weak level of encryption was used, in order to make surveillance possible. An unspecified Asian country was the main target, but the negotiations were colored by the Cold War. In the wake of the Snowden revelations, carriers such as Deutsche Telekom have been upgrading their network encryption so people’s conversations can’t be so easily tapped.

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