Facebook not allowing Egypt’s government to spy on users of its Free Basics service was the reason the offering was banned in December, according to Reuters.
Free Basics was launched in the country in October last year, and was subsequently suspended on 30 December. At the time, the government claimed this was because Etisalat only had a temporary permit, with reports stating that the axe was not due to security concerns.
It is not clear what type of access the government wanted, and while both Facebook and Eitisalat have not commented on the matter, a spokesman for Egypt’s Ministry of Communication, Mohamed Hanafi, apparently said “the national telecommunication regulator saw the service as harmful to companies and their competitors”.
The Egyptian ban came at a time when Free Basics was on the receiving end of fierce criticism in markets including India, where observers argued it violates principles of net neutrality by offering access to certain web services on mobile devices for free.
Facebook claimed more than 3 million Egyptians used the service before it was suspended, of which 1 million did not previously have internet access. At the time of the ban, it said it was “disappointed” and hoped to “resolve (the) situation soon.”
The Reuters report also noted that Facebook strengthened security protections for the service in September after criticism that it needed to do more to enable privacy.