It’s official. American companies can again do business with Chinese tech giant Huawei.
This weekend, a confusing six weeks after the ban went into effect, US President Donald Trump reversed his own executive order following negotiations with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a leader’s summit in Japan.
It means existing and future Huawei smartphones will continue to enjoy unfettered access to Android updates, as well as other Google services including the Google Play app store.
It also means US companies like Qualcomm, Intel, and Micron can continue to supply the parts that Huawei needs to continue building phones.
But it doesn’t mean that Huawei can start selling devices in the US, at least not yet.
The company’s entry into the US market is being left on the table as a talking point in the US’ ongoing trade negotiations with China. Speaking to journalists after the G20 Summit, President Trump said, “We’ll have to save that to the very end, we’ll have to see.”
The move is an interesting turning point in the continuing trade battle between the two superpowers, where Huawei sadly and unfairly appears to be a casualty of war.
Over the last few years, it has become harder for Huawei to do business in the United States following claims that its hardware is a threat to US national security. Claims that have, for the most part, gone unsubstantiated. Warnings have come from both the US Congress and the intelligence community. Mr. Trump himself has been quoted as saying, “Huawei is something that is very dangerous.”
But with Huawei’s access being used as leverage in trade negotiations, one can’t help but ask if there is – or was – any basis for these allegations. Or were fears and assumptions instead blown out of proportion, simply to put pressure on China?
What’s clear is that consumer confidence in the brand has taken a major hit, so much so that it will be interesting to see how Huawei intends on bouncing back from this crisis. That’s unfortunate to see, considering the company’s massive contribution to the smartphone industry over the last two to three years. Where growth has slowed and many brands have merely iterated, Huawei has arguably pushed innovation hardest.
The tea leaves point to the company relying on its dominance in the 5G race, where it appears to be miles ahead of its competition. With or without Google, expect the Chinese firm to also push even harder in the smartphone space. Its foldable Mate X smartphone is nearing its release date and could possibly be a game changer.
Still, I wonder, is it a little too late, and is the damage dealt beyond repair?
As the story develops. It opens up a host of other questions and issues that beg to be considered.
Sure, concerns about China are not without basis. But how big of a threat is China (the country) to global consumers? And are all Chinese tech companies, solely by virtue of their origin or association, equally worth being wary of?
While privately owned Chinese corporations like Huawei have insisted that they “will not build backdoors and hand over customer data,” experts fear that no Chinese company can be completely independent of its government. Looming over any such promise, the Chinese Counter-Espionage legislation mandates organizations to assist the government in intelligence work when deemed necessary.
But if this were the case, what about devices built with Chinese-made components? Chances are, you either own or are using one right now. Is it then even realistic to assume that we can live in a world without Chinese tech and manufacturing?
US government concerns about Huawei find ground in the company’s leadership in networking equipment and its potential dominance over 5G infrastructure. Anyone with that much power over something so vital can be a threat. But one can argue that the same can be said of any other company or country: the tech industry, after all, is built on a global supply chain. China does not have a monopoly on spying and hacking. Remember Russia? If China is a threat, so is every other technology superpower — including the US.
So what now? And how do we mitigate these risks in a way that doesn’t simultaneously deprive us of the next generation of industry advances?
By no means am I a security expert, nor do I have all the answers. But what’s clear to me is that restricting trade hinders innovation. And being technologically backward is a security threat in and of itself.
It’s also clear that the means by which the US has chosen to engage with China hurts all of us. Not only does it set a bad precedent its ramifications also extend beyond innovation and geopolitics.
Our combined national security shouldn’t be only Huawei’s price to pay.
It’s 2019 and we live in a global village that is intricately interconnected. National security is our collective cross to bear because if these threats are otherwise unresolved, we all suffer.
This, even more than a trade issue, is a cybersecurity one. And while governments should be expected to step up to defend their citizens from potential holes in network security with progressive and ethical solutions, while utopic, I would love to see as a next step, the creation of an independent international body supported by us all. A group with no other interest in mind but that of consumers made up of great minds from both the West and the East.
Such a group would be responsible for testing hardware and software, and coming up with transparent solutions, separated from politics and uncolored by trade negotiations. Solutions that allow us to navigate this new world without paranoia, and with the freedom to choose the devices that we believe best match our needs.
Want to read this post in German? Visit MobileGeeks.de to see a translation!
AI Facial Recognition continues to scare me
Technology is indeed getting creepier
AI or artificial intelligence used to be something we only see in sci-fi movies. Today, AI is very much part of our daily lives with a lot of it deeply embedded in the smartphones we all use.
Apple, through the iPhone X, then introduced AI facial recognition as a secure way to unlock phones. They call it Face ID and it’s widely considered the most secure facial recognition system on smartphones right now. But it’s not perfect. It once failed to tell the difference between two Chinese women.
Before all of these advancements, it was in the 1960s when Woody Bledsoe created a system that detects facial features by plotting coordinates through a tablet. Thus, the facial recognition system was born. It has then made its way to smartphones, laptops, and security cameras.
In Computex 2019, we found CyberLink’s FaceMe. It’s an advanced AI facial recognition system that determines one’s age and emotions through a web camera. To my surprise, it accurately detected my approximate age group — around 21 to 26 years old. I thought the mood detection was subjective as my appearance won’t exactly tell you what I really feel. Bottomline? I found it amusing but scary.
Have you ever wondered how Facebook detects you on other users’ photos? In 2015, Facebook created a deep learning facial recognition system called “DeepFace” that detects faces through images. Innovative? Yes. Creepy? Well, Mark Zuckerberg made headlines when a photo of him surfaced online with his laptop’s webcam had tape covering it. This then led to the speculation that Facebook spies on its users.
— Allen He (@heling1682002) June 28, 2019
On the other hand, the Chinese government has a totally different way of utilizing facial recognition. While the rest of the world pays through cash or contactless payment, Chinese establishments use AI facial recognition system as one of their primary payment methods along with using WeChat.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg; if you have already seen Black Mirror’s Nosedive, you can relate the story’s plot to China’s “Social Credit System”. They score points or earn rewards by doing good deeds such as following traffic rules, volunteering, or even donating blood. They can they use the the points and rewards to buy goods.
Having debt or legal troubles will lower your credit. Punishments include a ban from traveling outside the country and not being able to buy your own property. It even goes as far as being shown through the “reel of shame” where “laolai” (a derogatory term for citizens who failed to pay their debts) were named and shamed during a film premiere — just like how it happened in an Avengers: Endgame screening.
Huawei, despite being a Chinese brand, has been successful in gaining customers’ satisfaction and trust in just a short time. Those on the Western side think the opposite: The US government accused Huawei of spying but US later lifted the ban. Even the arrests of their officials in Europe and Canada are undeniable. The commotion between US and China even opened a lot of discussions about spyware, including the safety and danger of AI facial recognition systems.
A lot of questions still remain. Do we really consider facial recognition our friend for keeping our data safe and secure from others? Or is it becoming our foe after all these allegations about the government and companies spying on us? One thing is for sure: AI facial recognition is far from being flawless.
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