Digital Brief: Johnson’s Huawei conundrum

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“It’s very likely Huawei products will be deployed in the UK’s core networks in the future.”

– Huawei CEO & Founder Ren Zhengfei, July 23.


UK & Huawei. As the UK’s new Prime Minister Boris Johnson gets settled into 10 Downing Street, questions are starting to abound as to the UK’s position on Chinese tech giant Huawei.

During my recent trip to Shenzhen, founder and CEO of the company, Ren Zhengfei, told me it is “very likely Huawei products will be deployed in the UK’s core networks in the future,” countering an earlier leak from the UK’s National Security Council that the government would only accept Huawei into non-core part of the country’s 5G infrastructure.

However, speaking earlier this week to Parliament on publication of the government’s Telecoms Supply Chain Review, erstwhile Digital Secretary Jeremy Wright said that in fact the UK had not yet adopted a stance on the Chinese tech giant.

“The government is not yet in a position to decide what involvement Huawei should have in the provision of the UK’s 5G network,” he said.

Meanwhile, Huawei is continuing to try and bolster its cybersecurity clout. During my trip to China last week, I discovered that the company has blocked more than a hundred products from being released on the market due to concerns that the items do not meet security standards

Nevertheless, since yesterday, Wright has been booted out from the UK’s digital ministry. and replaced by remain-voting Nicky Morgan, who will now have a lot of influence on how the UK manages the Huawei situation.

Meanwhile, remember the sacrificial lamb during the Huawei leaks scandal, Gavin Williamson?  He’s back, but this time with a ‘safer’ portfolio – taking control of Education in the cabinet – demonstrating perhaps that Johnson doesn’t consider Williamson as much of a slippery pair of hands as May did.

The most controversial addition to Johnson’s team is Dominic Cummings. He was the Campaign Director of Vote Leave, the successful campaign advocating for the UK to vote to leave the EU. Cummings had previously come under fire for reported links to Cambridge Analytica at the height of their data harvesting scandal: a claim he denied in 2018, calling the reports ‘nonsensical.’ Cumming has now been appointed as the Prime Minister’s chief advisor.

Staying on theme, Facebook has agreed to pay a record-breaking $5 billion settlement to resolve a US government investigation following the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Johnson’s broadband pledge. Following his nomination as the UK’s new Prime Minister, Johnson restated previous pledges to roll out full-fibre broadband in every household by 2025, aiming to fast-track previous government objectives for achieving this by 2033.

UK taken to court for data protection. Staying with the UK, the government has been taken to court for refusing European citizens the right to access data held about them by the Home Office.

Jourová: ‘Hurry up.’ Still on the theme of data, the Commission adopted a report on the progress of GDPR yesterday, with the results showing that most member states have the necessary legal framework in place and businesses are developing a compliance culture and citizens are becoming more aware of their rights. However, Greece, Portugal and Slovenia are the only member states so far not to have made the national reforms necessary to comply with GDPR. We asked if Commissioner Jourová had a message for them? “Hurry up,” she replied.

EU-US Privacy Shield.  Speaking to the European Parliament’s Justice Committee today (25 July), Jourová also revealed that she will travel to the US in mid-September to conduct the third annual review of the Privacy Shield, the data protection agreement between the EU and the US.

Bulgaria data breach. EURACTIV’s Georgi Gotev reports this week that prosecutors have charged two workers at a cybersecurity company with terrorism as part of an investigation into Bulgaria’s biggest-ever data breach.

Hong Kong spying? Over the weekend, I paid a visit to Hong Kong to investigate the protests and recent reports that some of the activists in the pro-democracy camp are being surveilled by the Chinese state. I caught up with leading activist Joshua Wong, who not only told me that his movement is in need of Europe’s support, but also that he “would not be surprised” if Hong Kong government supporting hackers would be trying to infiltrate his communications, as well as conducting espionage campaigns on his group.

Copyright. The French parliament on Tuesday (23 July) adopted a copyright reform to protect media against the use of their news by tech giants, the first national legislature to agree to the new EU law.

Commission looks into 5G health impacts. Speaking in front of the European Parliament’s ITRE committee earlier this week, Director for cybersecurity at the Commission, Despina Spanou revealed that the executive arm of the EU is looking into the long-term health impacts of 5G networks. In April, a Belgian government minister announced the suspension of 5G plans in Brussels, due to concerns about radiation levels. ENISA’s new chief Juhan Lepassaar has been scheduled to speak in front of ITRE MEPs, but will instead make an address to them in September.

Online terrorist content. In other news, ECR’s Polish MEP Patryk Jaki will be the new rapporteur on the controversial online terrorist content file, it was announced earlier this week. He takes over from British MEP Daniel Dalton. Parliament and Council have already adopted their positions on the file, and will now head into inter-institutional negotiations.


On My Radar

Next Tuesday Dr Liang Hua, Chairman of Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd. will be sharing Huawei’s business results for the first half of 2019. It’ll be interesting to see whether the US decision to place the company on an Entity List would have impacted its margins much. 

After that – I’ll be taking a break for a few weeks  – the Digital Brief will return mid-August!


What else I’m reading this week:


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