So I was surfing through Amazon.com for phones and came upon one from ZTE. Doing a little due diligence on it I ran across this report from the House Intel: Investigative Report on the U.S. National Security Issues Posed by Chinese Telecommunications Companies Huawei and ZTE (PDF). Apparently, Huawei Technologies Company was under a cloud of suspicion, and in an open letter published in early 2011 the company denied any security concerns and asked the U.S. government for an investigation into their corporate operations to clear their reputation. The House of Representatives took them up on it.
Here's an excerpt from the executive summary:
Despite hours of interviews, extensive and repeated document requests, a review of open - source information, and an open hearing with witnesses from both companies, the Committee remains unsatisfied with the level of cooperation and candor provided by each company. Neither company was willing to provide sufficient evidence to ameliorate the Committee’s concerns. Neither company was forthcoming with detailed information about its formal relationships or regulatory interaction with Chinese authorities. Neither company provided specific details about the precise role of each company’s Chinese Communist Party Committee . Furthermore, neither company provided detailed information about its operations in the United States. Huawei, in particular, failed to provide thorough information about its corporate structure, history, ownership, operations, financial arrangements, or management. Most importantly, neither company provided sufficient internal documentation or other evidence to support the limited answers they did provide to Committee investigators.
During the investigation, the Committee received information from industry experts and current and former Huawei employees suggesting that Huawei, in particular, may be violating United States laws. These allegations describe a company that has not followed United States legal obligations or international standards of business behavior. The Committee will be referring these allegations to Executive Branch agencies for further review, including possible investigation.
We've known, or at least suspected, that China has been spying on us for a long time. And those of us paranoid enough have wondered whether our own electronic devices are ticking time bombs waiting for the signal from home to participate in a DDOS attack or do something even more nefarious.
By the way, that last sentence of the quoted passages about referring the allegations to the Executive Branch may not have been necessary. The U.S. had been spying on Huawei since 2009 according to the Snowden leaks via Spiegel. Well, good. That's the kind of spying we expect from our government.
In any event, Huawei and ZTE phones are off my wish list. And apparently they're off many other Americans' lists, too, as those companies' sales in the U.S. are dwarfed by their sales in other countries.
But here's the twist. The U.S. has been active in the spy game, too. And at least one writer speculated that the leaks about America's spying would turn customers off U.S. made products, too.
So what's a consumer to do? If all of our electronics are spying on us, I suppose we have to choose which country we want stealing our communications. But here's a radical thought: snail mail. The NSA would really have to work to read our letters. In my case, I can barely read my own hand writing, and to pilfer and read my letters would require a level of physical energy that probably isn't there. The USPS may get a second life. Let's not declare it dead just yet.