Controversy grows over Huawei privacy protections and state connections

The Central Intelligence Agency has informed intelligence services for allied “Five Eyes” nations (Canada, the UK, Australia, and New Zealand) that Huawei has likely received funding from three different parts of China’s government, TechSpot reports.

The story comes via a UK source for The Times, and says that the CIA considers the certainty of its findings “strong but not iron-cast.” The People’s Liberation Army, the country’s National Security Commission, and another branch of its state intelligence apparatus contributed to Huawei, according to the report.

Huawei is currently suing the U.S. government over a federal contract ban, while the U.S. is seeking the extradition of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou from Canada over sanctions alleged violations. The company has previously denied links to China’s government, and said that it would “not comment on unsubstantiated allegations backed up by zero evidence from anonymous sources.”

MIT recently severed ties with Huawei and ZTE, citing potential security risks and ongoing investigations.

“If privacy wins, criminals win.”

The company has taken a somewhat combative tone in response to the spate of controversies. Huawei Global Chief Public Safety Scientist Hong-Eng Koh told an audience at the company’s Global Analyst Summit 2019 that video surveillance is everywhere, and criticism of Chinese government surveillance practices is motivated by anti-Chinese bias, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.

Koh notes that video surveillance “started in New York and London long ago,” and that the Los Angeles Police Department put out a tender 10 years ago for a surveillance system to capture video and store it for 10 years. Additionally, the UK has more cameras per person than China, according to Koh, and lawful surveillance is necessary to catch terrorists and pedophiles.

“If privacy wins, criminals win. But if the physical security win, it’s also not so good for civil society,” Koh says.

He also acknowledged a need to balance security and privacy, and company Global Public Safety expert Pierre Herron said he would welcome the implementation of laws like GDPR on other continents.

Huawei is a leading provider of smart city systems featuring facial recognition, in addition to smartphones with biometric capabilities.

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