US starts huffing and puffing over Huawei again

The US Government is on the Huawei offensive once again, throwing another warning to the UK and suggesting the industry should open-source 5G technology to counter the threat.

The security argument is one which the US feels might hit home, despite European counterparts erring on the side of evidence. It seems quite remarkable to us that the US Government feels by saying the same thing, only a bit louder each time, that there might be success, though we do not have the political savvy which flows freely through the halls of the White House.

“They are just going to steal wholesale state secrets, whether they are the UK’s nuclear secrets or secrets from MI6 or MI5,” Robert O’Brien, US National Security Adviser, told the Financial Times.

The US does have some leverage over the UK, this is an economy on the other side of a very lucrative trade deal after all, but it doesn’t seem to address the basic demands of the European Governments. Time and time again, European administrations have said they will take an evidence-based approach, and while some sceptics may call this political rhetoric, the fact Huawei is yet to be banned suggests there is some truth to the claim.

This approach to the Huawei-conundrum seems to be a lot more personal however, seemingly targeting the fears of a delicately balanced electorate to force the hand of popularity-craving public figures.

“If you get all the information on a person and then you get their genome, and you marry those two things up, and you have an authoritarian state wielding that information, that is an incredible amount of power,” said O’Brien. “Why the UK would sign up for such a programme is astonishing.

“German citizens just are not ready to sign up for their state to become a vassal of Beijing, and the first step on that path is allowing Chinese 5G into Germany.”

Huawei does seem to be winning the backing of the European bloc. There are of course dependency issues which will perhaps be more of a defining factor than anything else, but the Chinese vendor is doing something very different to the US propagandists; it is working with the nations to come to a solution.

The UK, Germany, Spain, Italy and countless other nations will find it very difficult to ban Huawei. Competition is needed to drive down the cost of deployment, due to the scale of the telcos, while the rip-and-replace of 4G technologies would be an incredible cost. The US has neither of these problems; there are effectively only four MNOs serving 300 million people and Huawei does not have any equipment in the network to cause backwards compatibility concerns.

But while the US is simply shouting across the Atlantic, commanding those it sees as inferior nations to its will, Huawei is working with the telcos to create a solution. In March, it opened a cybersecurity centre in Brussels to allow customers to validate security credentials and this month it christened the 5G Innovation and Experience Centre in London.

This is a firm which understands the concerns over its products and has boots on the ground to manufacture new products which are more suitable for the world of tomorrow. It is proactively managing the concerns instead of simply huffing and puffing from the other side of the world. Is there any wonder why the US is being largely ignored?

Interestingly enough, this is not the only proclamation which has made its way out of the White House and across the Atlantic.

Speaking with the freedoms attributed to those with little thought to the concept of irony, the Pentagon’s Lisa Porter is proposing 5G technologies should be open-sourced.

“The beauty of our country is that we allow that marketplace to decide the winners,” said Porter. “The market will decide. If someone is dragging their feet, that’s up to them to decide, but then the market will decide from there who wins.”

There was of course no mention of the isolationist or protectionist policies which have been rolled-out by the White House over the last few years.

In open-sourcing 5G technologies, a tsunami of technology companies could get in on the act. This of course would be incredibly beneficial for the telcos who’s procurement processes could potentially be buoyed by a race to the bottom as numerous off-the-shelf alternatives appear on the market.

This has been deemed a means to counter the threat of Huawei, ripping away the valuable advantage of years’ worth of R&D. But at the same time, it would destroy the proposition for European vendors, Nokia and Ericsson for example, as well as US technology powerhouses, Cisco and Oracle.

Perhaps the Christmas break is coming at an excellent time. There will be several Huawei announcements made in the New Year and plenty of opportunity for political ping pong. We suspect January will be a very busy month for Huawei’s PR team.

UK Government unveils its own AI to detect terrorist content online

The UK Government has announced the development of new software which promises to automatically detect terrorist content on any online platform.

Developed by the Home Office and ASI Data Science, the Government boasted the piece of kit ‘detected 94% of Daesh propaganda with 99.995% accuracy’ during tests, with a small number of videos being reviewed by employees if the software gets confused. The tool can be used by any platform where videos are reviewed during the uploading process, with the aim being to catch the content before it hits the internet.

“Over the last year we have been engaging with internet companies to make sure that their platforms are not being abused by terrorists and their supporters,” said Home Secretary Amber Rudd. “I have been impressed with their work so far following the launch of the Global Internet Forum to Counter-Terrorism, although there is still more to do, and I hope this new technology the Home Office has helped develop can support others to go further and faster.”

It certainly is a different approach to working with the digital community, one which will almost certainly be more successful. The last 12-18 months have seen various governments around the world try to force the technology industry to bend to its will, even when government ideas are to the detriment of users. A collaborative approach such as this, aiding the technology firms as opposed to bitterly arguing with them, is an idea we weren’t expecting.

What we aren’t too sure about is the effectiveness of the technology. Yes, tests have proven it works but we don’t think it will be too long before the nefarious characters have found a way around it. The success of the technology will almost certainly be dependent on how it is adopted and enhanced by the internet giants. The UK Government might well have produced a good technology, but the engineers working for the likes of Facebook, Google or Twitter for example will be smarter. They could take a good idea and turn it into an incredibly resilient and proactive piece of artificial intelligence.

Perhaps these are the discussions which will happen over the next couple of days as Rudd visits Silicon Valley. Rudd has traditionally been very combative, aggressive and self-righteous when it comes to dealing with the technology industry, let’s hope she is able to put her ego aside for these talks. The UK Government will not be able to address the rise in hate speech and terrorist propaganda on its own; working with the technology industry is critical.

What might be an interesting little twist to the story would be if Rudd forces the technology giants to adopt the technology by law. Technologists and innovators are usually quite protective of their platforms and being forced to do something by lethargic legislators might irritate the technology firms. In the first instance, the technology will be used by smaller companies such as Vimeo, Telegraph and pCloud, but it would surprise very few if the Government looked to force the bigger players into adoption as well.

While it has been used for political point scoring and scare mongering in the past, the threat of online extremist propaganda is quite real. The UK Government has identified 400 unique online platforms which were used to push out poisonous material in 2017, while 145 new platforms from July until the end of the year had not been used before.

The success of this technology will be in how it is enhanced in the future. At some point, someone will figure out a way to beat it, trick it or circumnavigate it. The Government will need help in developing its effectiveness for the future. We hope Rudd has this mentality when sitting down with the technology firms. Take a collaborative, open source approach and it could turn out to be a very good idea. Force them into doing something they are not happy with and the technology firms could turn into stubborn teenagers.