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British spies targeted the CEO of a French web hosting company

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GCHQ headquarters UK (Credit: GCHQ/Crown Copyright)

In 2009, Britain’s GCHQ spying agency was actively targeting the CEO of one of Europe’s largest cloud hosting. A new report published by Le Monde (in partnership with The Intercept) found OVH CEO Octave Klaba’s name on a list of “interesting names” used as part of a metadata test by GCHQ in 2009, alongside ambassadors and politicians. It’s unclear how thoroughly Klaba was surveilled beyond that test, but the list is strong evidence that he was considered a target by intelligence agencies at the time.

Klaba has not been publicly accused of espionage or any other crime, and it’s unclear why he was included on the list. Still, it’s not the first time surveillance agencies have attacked technology providers as a way of reaching their customers, most notably with the 2010 attack on the SIM card company Gemalto.

As a web hosting provider, Klaba and OVH have often drawn criticism for the sites they host, whether they’re pirating content or promoting unorthodox political views. In 2010 (after the order reported by Le Monde), the company took over hosting of the Wikileaks site, after Amazon declined to host the site for political reasons. Still, it’s unclear how those activities might have posed a threat to the national security of the UK.