The Chinese government might be spying on U.S. citizens who use Huawei smartphones, warns the FBI and other U.S. intelligence agencies. On Tuesday, FBI Director Christopher Wray told the Senate Intelligence Committee that American telecom companies should be alerted about Chinese technology companies that are associated in some way or other with foreign governments.
“We’re deeply concerned about the risks of allowing any company or entity that is beholden to foreign governments that don’t share our values to gain positions of power inside our telecommunications networks,” Wray said, according to CNBC.
The FBI and other U.S. intelligence agencies also warned against the use of products and services from the Chinese telecom company ZTE.
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“This is a challenge I think that is only going to increase, not lessen over time for us,” said NSA Director Michael Rogers. “You need to look long and hard at companies like this.”
During the hearing, officials from all U.S. intelligence agencies echoed similar views, saying that they would not suggest that U.S. citizens use any products from such Chinese companies, according to CNBC. The intelligence agencies also recognized the efforts of American telecom firms as far as measured resistance against these Chinese companies. The U.S. government is reportedly even considering a bill that would bar government employees from using ZTE and Huawei phones.
U.S. intelligence agencies have long been issuing such warnings to citizens, advising them to stay away from Chinese smartphone makers, especially Huawei, which was founded by a former engineer from the People’s Liberation Army in China. The company is often referred as “effectively an arm of the Chinese government.”
Similar views cast Huawei out of bidding for U.S. government contracts in 2014, and now, the Chinese company is finding it challenging to foray into the U.S. consumer electronics market, notes The Verge. Last year, when Huawei thought it had almost sealed a deal with AT&T for its U.S. debut, the mobile carrier called off the deal — probably due to pressure from Congress.
Huawei CEO Richard Yu displayed angst during his keynote at Consumer Electronics Show (CES). Yu criticized American telecom companies and described it as a “big loss” for the company and an even bigger loss for users. The Chinese company eventually did make its U.S. debut by selling an unlocked version of its Mate 10 Pro via Amazon, Best Buy and other retailers.
In response to the recent allegations, the Chinese company said in a statement to CNBC: “Huawei is aware of a range of U.S. government activities seemingly aimed at inhibiting Huawei’s business in the U.S. market.”
Further, the company stated that it is trusted by governments and customers in 170 countries across the world. The Chinese company said that it poses no cyber-security risk and should be viewed as any other ITC vendor.
Huawei started as a telecom firm by developing hardware for communications infrastructure. However, its smartphones have proven to be very successful in recent years. In September, Huawei toppled Apple to become the world’s second-biggest smartphone maker, behind only Samsung.