Microsoft Asks For Actual Spying Evidence To Justify Blackballing Of Huawei
from the protectionism-is-the-new-black dept
We’ve repeatedly noted that while Huawei certainly engages in some clearly sketchy shit (like any good telecom company), the evidence supporting the global blacklist of the company has been lacking. The Trump administration still hasn’t provided any evidence supporting the central justification for the global blackballing effort (that Huawei works for China to spy wholesale on Americans), and at least some of the effort is little more than protectionism driven by companies like Cisco, which don’t want to compete with cheaper Chinese gear.
Again while Huawei does pose some legitimate security concerns, there’s also little doubt that at a sizable chunk of this effort is just good old protectionism. Despite this, plenty of companies (like Google) have been happy to jump on the Huawei blackballing bandwagon. That hasn’t been the case with Microsoft, which this week broke ranks and went so far as to call the Trump administration’s attempt to blackball the company “un-American.”
While clearly holding selfish motivations (Microsoft wants to be able to sell Huawei product), company President Brad Smith was quick (and correct) to point out that the Trump administration is incapable of providing actual evidence of Huawei’s spying in the US:
“When Microsoft asked US lawmakers to explain the threat, they’ve been too vague for Smith’s liking. Huawei is a major customer of his company: Its laptops come with Microsoft’s Windows operating system. “Oftentimes, what we get in response is, ‘Well, if you knew what we knew, you would agree with us’,” Smith told Bloomberg. “And our answer is, ‘Great, show us what you know so we can decide for ourselves. That’s the way this country works.'”
The thing is, that’s the response everybody gets when they pressure the Trump for actual evidence that Huawei spies on Americans. That includes the UK, which has also lamented a lack of solid spying evidence, while noting that most of Huawei’s security issues (frequently the result of sloppy craftsmanship, not malice) can be addressed using common sense instead of harmful trade wars and blackballing.
The last time we went through this was in 2011, where similar protectionist sable rattling (again, well hyped by US networking gear competitors) led to an 18 month investigation into Huawei by the White House that discovered… nothing at all. And while it’s certainly possible that Huawei has helped the Chinese government spy on Americans, actual public evidence is kind of important if you’re going to engage in sweeping global blackballing policies impacting a massive chain of companies and ecosystems. If the shoe were on the other foot, there’d be no limit of US indiignation at the lack of supporting evidence.
The other problem of course is that the US isn’t really in much of a position to lecture anybody on spying. Snowden docs revealed that the NSA (aka the United States) had broken into Huawei as early as 2007 in a bid to steal source code and covertly implant backdoors into Huawei products. Similarly you’ll recall how the NSA was also busted intercepting Cisco hardware in transit, taking that gear to a special facility, then outfitting it with backdoors. That’s before you even get to AT&T’s role in international and domestic US surveillance, something routinely applauded as patriotic.
Pursuing the blackballing of Huawei without showing any evidence of actual spying sends two messages. One, that unethical behavior is only okay when the United States does it. And two, giant countries don’t need to provide evidence when flinging accusations about if they just bury the data under ambiguous accusations of national security violations. Neither China nor Huawei are saints, but there are far better ways to go about shoring up US telecom security (like spending some of these calories on fixing the internet of broken things), assuming fixing telecom security is even the actual goal.