Google Joins The Evidence-Optional Assault On Huawei
from the intercontinental-blackballing dept
So we’ve noted several times now how the US efforts to blacklist Huawei from global telecom markets haven’t much in the way of, oh, supporting evidence. The Trump administration and FCC have taken all manner of actions to try and blackball the company, 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.
The underlying justification for these moves has centered on the idea that Huawei operates as a surveillance extension of the Chinese government, something that still hasn’t been proven despite a decade’s worth of claims to this effect, and an eighteen month investigation by the White House.
That’s not to say the Chinese government is an innocent little daisy. Nor is it meant to suggest that it’s impossible that Huawei spies on Americans. But the lack of any actual public evidence of spying remains troubling all the same, given that if the shoe were on the other foot, there’d be no shortage of face-fanning consternation on the part of American politicians and industry.
Enter Google, which this week decided that it’d be joining the evidence-optional festivities by announcing it would be severing Huawei’s Android license. The move forces Huawei to rely on the Android Open Source Project (AOSP), cutting it off from critical Google apps and services. The move, as Reuters notes, could prove devastating for one of the nation’s biggest smartphone manufacturers:
“The suspension could hobble Huawei?s smartphone business outside China as the tech giant will immediately lose access to updates to Google?s Android operating system. Future versions of Huawei smartphones that run on Android will also lose access to popular services, including the Google Play Store and Gmail and YouTube apps.”
As some were quick to note, the move may actually prove to be counterproductive, given the negative impact it could have on deploying timely security updates:
It would be in the national interest for @CommerceGov to exempt and allow cooperation with Huawei on cybersecurity efforts, specifically regarding Android fixes and the technologies used to deploy them.
Ostensibly these regulations are in the name of cybersecurity, after all. https://t.co/rlpntx5U1G
— Dan Kaminsky (@dakami) May 19, 2019
For its part, Google stated it was simply complying with the US Commerce Department?s decision to place Huawei on the ?Entity List,” a move that was justified as essential to ensuring network security. But the company largely ignored any criticism that such a move might actually undermine end-user security. And in the press, it’s almost bizarre how few reporters have noticed that public evidence of spying allegations is nonexistent:
The US has presented exactly
evidence of Huawei devices being a greater security risk than any other Android phones. This is arbitrary, punitive, and hypocritical.https://t.co/KgxPA0auK7
— Vlad Savov (@vladsavov) May 20, 2019
It’s perfectly fine if your gut tells you Huawei is a surveillance proxy for the Chinese government, but that’s not the same as evidence. Also lost in this conversation is the fact that companies like Cisco have a long history of trying to gin up lawmaker hysteria on this subject for competitive advantage, or that this blackballing effort just mysteriously materialized at the same time US gear makers were worried about competing with cheaper Chinese gear as they rush to secure international fifth-generation (5G) network contracts.
Again, perhaps Huawei really is a spy and the last decade of similar hand-wringing is perfectly justified. But if that’s the case, it shouldn’t be hard to provide some public evidence supporting that allegation. And while some of the concern about Huawei may very well be driven by legitimate national security concerns, another significant chunk of these efforts is pretty clearly driven by good old vanilla protectionism. To ensure US policy is being driven more by the former than the latter, it might be a good idea if the press stopped playing parrot and demanded a little more in the way of actual proof.