This month, the Trump Administration took two significant steps to protect U.S. telecommunication networks and supply chains from being compromised by intrusions and backdoors facilitated by Chinese technology companies.
Last week, the FCC voted 5-0 to prevent China Mobile’s request to enter the U.S. market. “The Chinese government could use China Mobile to exploit our telephone network to increase intelligence collection against U.S. government agencies and other sensitive targets that depend on this network,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said. “That is a flatly unacceptable risk.” As a state owned enterprise (SOE) – the Chinese government owns somewhere between 73 and 100 percent of the company – China Mobile would be subject to the country’s intelligence collection and surveillance policies, which demand the sharing of information, potentially that of their users and customers. The FCC made the right decision in preventing a Chinese SOE from gaining access to U.S. telephone lines, cell networks and fiber-optic cables.
This week, President Trump signed an Executive Order that bans U.S. firms from using telecommunications equipment manufactured by foreign businesses deemed national security threats. Much commentary on the issue notes how this measure will prevent Huawei from penetrating American markets. Huawei has long been on the radar of the U.S. government, and is under multiple criminal indictments by the Justice Department for the theft of trade secrets and financial fraud. Having already been banned from federal government networks, this order makes it even harder for Americans to purchase Huawei products on their own. Keeping Huawei out of American markets will expose fewer consumers to the backdoors in the company’s equipment that allow third-parties to collect information and send it to China.
These actions should continue to drive a larger conversation about how other Chinese-owned companies (such as Lenovo, Tianma Microelectronics and TPV Technology) can imperil national security, corporate intellectual property and personal privacy, and threaten supply chains, due their support from and allegiance to the Chinese government.