Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) has been banned from offering its Free Basics service in Egypt due to a disagreement over spying and user privacy.
The social media giant’s Free Basics service was banned in the country after a disagreement with the Egyptian government following its demand for a surveillance tool. Facebook had previously been scrutinized for violating net neutrality rules using the Free Basics service which is the company’s tailored internet. The decision to avoid handing over a surveillance tool to the Egyptian government highlights Facebook’s commitment to maintaining privacy for users.
The country’s government had previously stated that it had given a temporary permit to Etisalat Egypt, a mobile carrier in Egypt which would allow the free service to be offered. The government also stated that there was no disagreement about surveillance measures. A source familiar with the matter stated that more than 3 million people in the country had registered for the Free Basics service. A third of those people were using the services to log onto the Internet for the first time. The source did not specify on how the government wanted the firm to change its security policies.
Facebook is yet to make any official statements on the matter, but a spokesman for Egypt’s Ministry of Communications stated that the ban was for some other reason and not about surveillance. The spokesman stated that the national communications regulator viewed the service was unfair to other telecommunications companies in the country because it was offered on a free basis.
Facebook’s Free Basics service was launched to offer the Internet to low income earners in developing countries. The service is currently available in 37 countries, but Egypt is not the only country to raise concerns about the service. Officials in India also claim that the service violated net neutrality regulations and as a result, Free Basics was blocked to allow for public consultation. Despite the service being blocked in the country, the firm still offers its mainstream services in the two countries without any problem.