AT&T, Huawei Phone Partnership Killed At Last Second By More Unproven Accusations Of Huawei Spying

from the not-so-free-markets dept

If you remember a few years ago, there was ample hysteria and hand-wringing in Congress regarding Huawei’s plan to compete in the American cell phone and network hardware business. But despite near-constant claims by certain lawmakers that Huawei was an intelligence proxy for the Chinese government, numerous, multi-year investigations found absolutely no evidence to support this conclusion. That of course didn’t stop certain parties from repeatedly insisting that Huawei was a Chinese government spy, since we all know that in the post-truth era, what your gut tells you is more important than empirical evidence.

Never mind that almost all U.S. network gear is made in (or comprised of parts made in) China. Never mind that obviously NSA allegations show the United States spies on almost everyone, constantly. Never mind that reports have emerged that a lot of the spy allegations originate with Huawei competitor Cisco, which was simply concerned with the added competition. Huawei is a spy. We’re sure of it. And covert network snooping is bad. When China does it.

Fast forward to this week. A new report in the Wall Street Journal indicates that AT&T and Huawei were about to announce a new cellphone sales partnership at CES. While Huawei phones are available unlocked in the States (and Huawei has helped Google build its own smartphones already), the deal would have marked the first major partnership between the company and a major cellular provider. But the deal was scrapped at the last second for reasons neither company wanted to disclose to the Journal:

“It was unclear why AT&T, the country?s No. 2 carrier by subscribers, changed its mind. An AT&T spokesman declined to comment. A Huawei spokesman declined to comment on conversations with AT&T, saying only that ?Huawei has proven itself by delivering premium devices with integrity globally and in the U.S. market.”

A paywalled report over at the Information appears to offer the real reason for the last-minute scuttling of the partnership: namely a letter sent to the Trump FCC by members of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees again claiming that Huawei is a spy for the Chinese government:

While it’s certainly not impossible that Huawei is aiding Chinese government surveillance, the fact remains that there have been numerous, lengthy investigations into this claim (one of which was eighteen months long), none of which have actually resulted in the slightest bit of evidence proving the allegations. And again, what has been proven so far is that lobbyists for companies like Cisco have spent ample time pouring fire on these concerns in the minds of cash-compromised lawmakers, simply because they don’t want to have to face another deep-pocketed competitor in the US hardware market.

That is, as some guy named Mike Masnick noted on Twitter, something we’ve long enjoyed criticizing China for:

AT&T, no stranger to domestic spying (bone grafted as it is to the United States own intelligence-gathering aparatus) may have been willing to kill the deal out of blind “patriotism” or the belief it could help gain regulatory approval for the company’s $86 billion acquisition of Time Warner (currently being challenged by the DOJ in court). Nobody in this chain has much in the way of integrity or a history of truth-telling, and until evidence emerges that Huawei is the nefarious spymaster allegations have long alleged, a dash of skepticism seems warranted.

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Companies: cisco, huawei

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Comments on “AT&T, Huawei Phone Partnership Killed At Last Second By More Unproven Accusations Of Huawei Spying”

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25 Comments
Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: Re:

There’s more to it than hypocrisy.

American spying pretty much demands a response in kind, which the Chinese can do with similar hardware and methods.

It’s not merely the obvious conclusion that they would do it. It’s that the demand is so great that it becomes a competence test. We wouldn’t want to trust our critical infrastructure to someone too incompetent to meet that challenge.

Anonymous Coward says:

>what your gut tells you is more important than empirical evidence

Empirical evidence shows us handsets, especially low-end ones are a security nightmare and shouldn’t be purchased by anyone except exhibitionists.

https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2016/11/chinese-company-installed-secret-backdoor-on-hundreds-of-thousands-of-phones/

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re:

It’s not Huawei. As said in the article, there’s been plenty of auditing and research that hasn’t managed to prove anything. Of course this might be exactly because there was so much attention and that the company would include backdoors otherwise but again there are plenty of white (and black) hats tinkering with all sorts of hardware to find problems/bugs. Eventually it would be made public.

I say it’s ok to use their products but we must keep probing them for possible backdoors. I’d say the same about Cisco as well given the US is not really into any higher moral grounds over this issue.

Anonymous Coward says:

"Huawei has helped Google build its own smartphones"; not unfounded suspicions, then.

“(bone grafted as [ATT] is to the United States own intelligence-gathering aparatus)” — OH, and Google is NOT? Snowden says Google gives NSA “direct access”.

Just coincidence that you defend even a Chinese supplier to Google? After a thousand such “coincidences”, I say it’s NOT.

Your ability to see every parallel except the obvious, especially regarding Google, is uncanny, in full Scots usage.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: "Huawei has helped Google build its own smartphones"; not unfounded suspicions, then.

Also I apply this phrase to Techdirt’s many “Trump-Russia collusion” pieces: “multi-year investigations found absolutely no evidence to support this conclusion. That of course didn’t stop certain parties [YOU, Techdirt!] from repeatedly insisting”…

And for Masnick quote: “China points to this case as evidence for why America does the same thing” — “for why” is wrong: should be “that”. — But China will block American companies for some “reason”: it’s only America which is stupid enough to not protect our own. Indeed, due to the “free trade” policies that Masnick promotes, the USA literally packed up and shipped factories to China, and allowed corporations to just put a sticker on finished goods to be sold in US market at ten times cost. Masnick as usual just points to a tiny part while ignoring the HUGE systemic stupidity.

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: Re: "Huawei has helped Google build its own smartphones"; not unfounded suspicions, then.

Also I apply this phrase to Techdirt’s many "Trump-Russia collusion" pieces: "multi-year investigations found absolutely no evidence to support this conclusion.

Wikipedia: Links between Trump associates and Russian officials

128 citations.

Wikipedia: Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections

389 citations.

Same delusional claim, same response. But at least it was the more coherent part of your post.

Coyne Tibbets (profile) says:

Re: Re: "Huawei has helped Google build its own smartphones"; not unfounded suspicions, then.

Are you accusing Techdirt of hypocrisy? Yelling, "There’s no PROOF Trump did anything wrong, so STFU!" Well, let me tell you, we might not have found the fire yet, but there’s a LOT of smoke.

But, like most of the Trump Defenders® crowd, I’m betting it wasn’t that long ago that you were screaming, "Who gives a f### about PROOF? Eviscerate Hillary!

Maybe you’re not a member. But you sound like a member, the membership is hypocritical, and members who live in glass Houses should not throw stones.

Anonymous Coward says:

when those in charge of a country are so scared of what another country might do to it, when in reality, their country is the one doing whatever it can as far as spying, surveillance, hacking and removing all manner of privacy and freedom, what does that tell you? the USA is run by those who seem to be nothing but two-faced hypocrites and scare mongers, blaming the world for everything that is going on when in actual fact it is instigating most of those things itself and carrying out 110% of what it accuses others of doing anyway!!

Coyne Tibbets (profile) says:

Re: im not the sharpest

Some people think United States management is a magic prophylactic against Chinese spyware. This includes US intelligence agencies, which aren’t…intelligent.

Just understand that this is really about protectionism, in the form of trade barriers. It’s the incumbent big US corporations using big daddy government to keep out a new competitor.

That promotes a lot of dumb.

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