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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  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 10 Jan 2018 @ 5:27am

    Hypocrisy. If it stops functioning today humanity will implode.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Roger Strong (profile), 10 Jan 2018 @ 7:23am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Jan 2018 @ 6:47am

    >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-secr et-backdoor-on-hundreds-of-thousands-of-phones/

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Ninja (profile), 10 Jan 2018 @ 8:29am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    SteveMB (profile), 10 Jan 2018 @ 6:55am

    The real problem is that the Chinese spyware interferes with the NSA spyware.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Jan 2018 @ 7:12am

    But despite near-constant claims by certain lawmakers that Huawei was an intelligence proxy for the Chinese government

    Seems like a guilt complex, we turn our tech companies into proxy spies, therefore the Chines must.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Jan 2018 @ 7:24am

    "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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 10 Jan 2018 @ 7:25am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Roger Strong (profile), 10 Jan 2018 @ 7:54am

        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.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Ninja (profile), 10 Jan 2018 @ 8:33am

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

          He replies to himself (herself, whatever). I think the claim is not the only delusional part here.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 10 Jan 2018 @ 8:55pm

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

            First Hamilton disappeared, then MyNameHere/Whatever/Just Sayin'/horse with no name. out_of_the_blue needs to reply to himself just to soothe the gaping void in his copyrighted heart.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Coyne Tibbets (profile), 11 Jan 2018 @ 2:44am

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

          You have a funny definition of evidence: "They said it a lot on the web, so there must be evidence!"

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Coyne Tibbets (profile), 11 Jan 2018 @ 3:19am

        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.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Ninja (profile), 10 Jan 2018 @ 8:32am

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

      Beware of the Yeti. It might be right outside, you should hide.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Jan 2018 @ 7:44am

    Spy-allegation truth or no...

    Their phones are POS time bombs, ready to die on a moment's notice. At least their shoddy quality got me a free Pixel from Google.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Jan 2018 @ 8:02am

    "And covert network snooping is bad."

    I think we are past the point where we call it "convert" don't you?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Jan 2018 @ 8:24am

    Huawei spying, isn't that rich. I guess like with stealing, the government doesn't like the competition.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Jan 2018 @ 10:48am

    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!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    DullToolShed, 11 Jan 2018 @ 9:30am

    im not the sharpest

    Don't like asking dumb questions but im pretty sure all phones are made in China.

    Doesn't that alarm anyone?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Coyne Tibbets (profile), 11 Jan 2018 @ 3:25pm

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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