Huawei chairman: We've received no gov't surveillance requests for company data

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Huawei Technologies may have been the subject of espionage accusations taken up by Washington, but the Chinese telecom equipment manufacturer is delivering a message loud and clear on its role, or non-role, in government surveillance.

According to Ken Hu, Huawei's deputy chairman, the company has never received government requests for customer information or access to its technology.

Hu made the statement in a foreword to the company's annual white paper on its cyber security approach, which was released this month (PDF).  

“We can confirm that we have never received any instructions or requests from any government or their agencies to change our positions, policies, procedures, hardware, software or employment practices or anything else, other than suggestions to improve our end-to-end cyber security capability,” Hu said in the paper. “We can confirm that we have never been asked to provide access to our technology, or provide any data or information on any citizen or organization to any government, or their agencies.”

His claims come pointedly as the U.S. government faces public scrutiny for its part in snooping on citizens' private communications.

Documents leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed in September that the National Security Agency (NSA) pressured major tech companies into giving the agency backdoor access to its software. The publicized details only heightened public objections over NSA's mass collection of citizens' data, achieved by requesting the information from tech companies under the FISA Amendments Act.

On Friday, business news outlet Quartz, questioned a Huawei exec, John Suffolk, the company's global cyber security officer, on whether he felt vindicated by the turn of events that exposed U.S. surveillance tactics. In response, Suffolk said that he didn't feel vindicated, but “saddened.”

Last October, a White House-commissioned probe of Huawei temporarily squashed suspicions that the company was spying on behalf of the Chinese government. The study found that Huawei did not pose a cyber espionage threat to the U.S., though a U.S. House Intelligence Committee report judged otherwise.

“We are as a company incredibly passionate about getting the world to use technology…anything that dampens that I think for us is a bad thing, but what I think we all can do is drive forward to the next level as an industry,” Suffolk, who is also a former CIO for the UK government, told the outlet. “There will be silver linings, but I don't feel vindicated, I feel saddened.”

On Friday, Julian Waits Sr., president and CEO of ThreatTrack Security, a Clearwater, Fla.-based firm that helps organizations identify and thwart advanced attacks, told SCMagazine.com that global attitudes about pervasive privacy threats have shifted in light of continued leaks.

“They are building up cyber defenses against [attacks], and one of the items on the list is U.S. government espionage,” Waits said of organizations that reach out to his firm about government snooping concerns. “It's not a surprise that every government has spies, but now the spies are becoming cyber [based].”

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