Google has reportedly suspended its licences and product-sharing agreements with Chinese communications giant Huawei, as Washington accuses the company of spying for Beijing.
The Silicon Valley tech giant has cut its business deals with Huawei that involve the transfer of hardware and software, Reuters and The Verge report. Following the move, Huawei will lose access to Android operating system updates, and its forthcoming smartphones will be shut out of some Google apps, including the Google Play Store and Gmail apps. The Chinese firm however will still have access to the open source version of the Android operating system.
Huawei has repeatedly been accused of installing so-called ‘backdoors’ on its products – effectively giving the Chinese government free rein to gather any information sent or received on a Huawei device. The heads of six US intelligence agencies warned American citizens against using Huawei products last year, and the Chinese company’s phones were banned from US military bases shortly afterwards.
Huawei denies all accusations of spying. Nevertheless, the US Commerce Department added Huawei to its blacklist on Thursday, after President Donald Trump ruled that the Chinese firm could “undermine US national security or foreign policy interests,” particularly in developing America’s 5G network. The ban forbids Huawei from buying parts or technology from US suppliers, effectively halting its operations until it can replace American parts with its own.
Coupled with the latest development from Google, the ban will likely see Huawei remain in place or tumble in the global smartphone market. The Chinese company overtook Apple at the beginning of the month to become the second biggest manufacturer worldwide, after South Korea’s Samsung.
Although Google has often had an antagonistic relationship with the Trump administration, Sunday’s report comes less than two months after CEO Sundar Pichai met with President Trump at the White House. After the meeting, Trump announced that Pichai’s firm was “totally committed to the U.S. Military, not the Chinese Military.”
Prior to the meeting, Google’s work in China had caused some consternation at the Pentagon. Although Google insists its projects there – including an AI lab in Beijing – have strictly peaceful applications, Joint Chiefs of Staff chair Gen. Joseph Dunford told a Senate hearing that “the work that Google is doing in China is indirectly benefiting the Chinese military.”
The company has, however, shown a willingness to work for the benefit of the US military too. Google was contracted in 2017 to create an AI program to analyze video footage from drones using machine learning, a project codenamed ‘Project Maven’ by the Pentagon. However, Google decided not to renew the contract last year, after receiving backlash from its employees.
Google’s competitors, Microsoft and Amazon, have both lent their cloud computing power to the Pentagon to help the military develop its AI projects.