Egypt blocked Facebook Inc's Free Basics Internet service at the end of last year after the US company refused to give the Egyptian government the ability to spy on users, two people familiar with the matter said.
Free Basics, launched in Egypt in October, is aimed at low-income customers, allowing anyone with a cheap computer or smartphone to create a Facebook account and access a limited set of Internet services at no charge.
The Egyptian government suspended the service on Dec. 30 and said at the time that the mobile carrier Etisalat had only been granted a temporary permit to offer the service for two months.
Two sources with direct knowledge of discussions between Facebook and the Egyptian government said Free Basics was blocked because the company would not allow the government to circumvent the service's security to conduct surveillance. They declined to say exactly what type of access the government had demanded or what practices it wanted Facebook to change.
A spokesman for Facebook declined to comment. Etisalat did not respond to a request for comment.
Mohamed Hanafi, a spokesman for Egypt's Ministry of Communication, declined to comment specifically on the allegation about surveillance demands but cited other reasons for Free Basics to be blocked.