I was still wrapping up my holiday break when the news broke that US lawmakers are lobbying the South Korean government to stop a network deal between local cellco LG+ and Huawei Technologies.
A few people have asked me for my thoughts about this. My feelings can probably be best expressed by a popular text acronym.
Seriously, it’s hard to think of anything to add to that. It’s one thing for the US government to stop Huawei from installing gear in US networks for security reasons – even though such reasons are both disingenuous and highly hypocritical. It’s another for US senators to actively pressure other governments to do the same.
To be sure, the decision to target the LG+ deal isn’t random. The existence of over 28,000 US troops stationed in South Korea makes the LG+/Huawei deal a matter of US national security, according to Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who is worried China could use a Huawei-supplied LG+ to spy on them.
As if it’s impossible for China to eavesdrop on any network that doesn’t have a Huawei switch installed.
How paranoid can you get? Honestly, it’s as though Congresspeople enjoy having a Chinese company to use for a convenient boogeyman, and now that Huawei has essentially given up on the US infrastructure market, the only way to get that anti-Huawei fix is to take it overseas.
Then again, we’re talking about politicians that see no irony in the US complaining about the PLA spying on Americans at a time when we’re learning all kinds of new things about the NSA’s insane espionage activities – the impact of which, according to a feature published on Wired’s Threat Level blog this week, goes far beyond the actual spying part. Just ask Apple, Facebook, Google and Yahoo:
The majority of Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, and Yahoo customers are not citizens of the US. Now those customers, as well as foreign regulatory agencies like those in the European Union, were being led to believe that using US-based services meant giving their data directly to the NSA.
The Snowden leaks called into question the Internet’s role as a symbol of free speech and empowerment. If the net were seen as a means of widespread surveillance, the resulting paranoia might affect the way people used it. Nations outraged at US intelligence-gathering practices used the disclosures to justify a push to require data generated in their countries to remain there, where it could not easily be hoovered by American spies. Implementing such a scheme could balkanize the web, destroying its open essence and dramatically raising the cost of doing business.
And we’re supposed to believe that Huawei is the bigger security threat? Give me a break.