US Huawei Blackballing Efforts Stall Due To Lack Of 'Actual Facts'
from the ill-communication dept
During the Trump era, the US government has dramatically ramped up claims that Chinese hardware vendor Huawei is a nefarious spy for the Chinese government, blackballing it from the U.S. telecom market. From pressuring U.S. carriers to drop plans to sell Huawei phones to the FCC’s decision to ban companies from using Huawei gear if they want to receive federal subsidies, this effort hasn’t been subtle.
While Huawei should never be confused with a saint (what telecom company would be?) there’s several problems with the effort. The biggest being that despite a decade of hand-wringing and one eighteen month investigation by the US government, there’s still no public evidence Huawei uses its network gear to spy on Americans. That’s not sitting well with countries we’ve asked to join along in the fun.
The UK, for example, recently noted that while some Huawei products can pose risks by nature of simply being low quality, they’ve yet to see any threat posed by Huawei that necessitates a global ban. That position has since been repeated by other allies who have been pointing out how despite years of bluster on this subject, they’ve yet to see the US government release the slightest bit of evidence supporting the allegation:
“European and Asian officials have complained privately that recent American intelligence briefings for allies did not share any sort of classified information that clearly demonstrated how the Chinese government used Huawei to steal information, according to people familiar with the discussions. European officials have told counterparts that if the United States has evidence the Chinese government has used its companies to do so, they should disclose it.
One senior European telecommunications executive said that no American officials had presented ?actual facts? about China?s abuse of Huawei networks.
Of course this is all hidden behind claims that this information is classified. But how hard is it to redact and provide at least some information proving your point? These allegations have also been bubbling up in fits and starts for over a decade now, and not a single security expert or any government official has been able to provide any evidence whatsoever to prove their point. While it’s certainly not impossible that Huawei helps the Chinese government spy, evidence is important. Can you imagine the hysteria on countless fronts if a US company like AT&T was banned from other countries without any supporting data?
Unmentioned in coverage of this hand-wringing about Huawei has been the fact that much of the hysteria on this front has been drummed up by US networking companies, who simply don’t want to compete with cheaper Chinese gear. With countless global gear makers rushing toward the trough as wireless carriers build next-generation 5G wireless networks, these efforts have only intensified. US gearmakers and their favorite lawmakers have a good schtick going: profess China must be banned from all global telecom markets based on claims of spying, then hide behind national security when anybody asks for proof.
Also ignored is that all of the hysteria about Huawei obfuscates a larger security threat (much of it originating in China): the lack of security in shitty internet of things gear. At this point you don’t really need Huawei to spy on Americans, since we’re connecting millions of poorly secured devices to our home and business networks annually voluntarily. Gear that often lacks any sensible security countermeasures whatsoever.
Similarly ignored is the fact that the US has engaged in most of the behavior we accuse Huawei of, including having broken into Huawei to spy on company executives. You’ll often see stories like this one highlighting China’s nefarious attempts to tap into undersea cables. But the press ignores that the US has been engaged in its own undersea cable and satellite communications wiretapping efforts for decades. Many of these efforts began decades ago (like Echelon), and were ridiculed as tin-foil-hat fantasy until the Snowden documents were revealed.
Again, none of this is to defend China’s actual abuses, or to suggest that Huawei hasn’t engaged in bad behavior. But imposing a global ban on a telecom giant for spying based on no actual evidence remains a shaky proposition, and it’s something countless supporters of the blackballing effort would be screaming about incessantly were the shoe on the other foot.