However, this is not the first time, the company has been accused of espionage or stealing trade secrets. Let’s take a look at the list of allegations Huawei has faced so far.
Huawei is undoubtedly in troubled waters following the US government blacklisting the Chinese giant. We already saw Google banning Huawei from using Android, while Qualcomm, Intel, Broadcom taking a step back when it comes to dealing with Huawei. We also saw ARM halting its business with the Chinese player. The whole scene came into limelight when the US government banned Huawei on the pretext of espionage and security concerns. However, this is not the first time, the company has been accused of espionage or stealing trade secrets. Let’s take a look at the list of allegations Huawei has faced so far.
Cisco patent case
In 2003, Cisco Systems sued Huawei Technologies for allegedly infringing on its patents and copying source code that is used in Huawei’s routers and switches. Cisco claimed that Huawei blatantly copied Cisco’s router technology, including the operating system which controlled the Cisco router. The Chinese company then duplicated the operating system and sold it under its new router range. However, in 2014, Huawei removed all the IPs and source code, and operating system and Cisco dropped the case.
Stealing Motorola’s Wireless technology
In 2007, a Motorola engineer named Hanjuan Jin was caught red-handed with a bag full of Motorola documents marked “confidential and proprietary. Customs agents stopped the engineer at O’Hare Airport and the agents also found $30,000 in cash along with a one-way ticket to Beijing. The engineer was arrested and the investigations by the FBI revealed that Jin was working for Shaowei Pan, a Motorola engineer and the engineers were allegedly sending pages of confidential Motorola documents detailing Motorola’s wireless network designs to a Huawei vice president. However, the case was settled in 2010 on confidential terms. However, many believe that this wireless technology played a pivotal role in Huawei’s growth.
Stealing the T-Mobile smartphone testing robot
Huawei faced a lawsuit from T-Mobile US in 2014 in which the company allegedly stole technology and parts of the smartphone testing robot Tappy. T-Mobile alleges that the Huawei employees snuck into T-Mobile lab in the 2012-2013 time frame and stole some parts from the robot. The employees then copied the operating system and design details that violate confidentiality agreements between both the companies. T-Mobile says that Huawei used this intel to build its testing robot. In 2017, the US federal jury agreed that Huawei committed industrial espionage and ordered the Chinese firm to pay $4.8 million in damages.
Huawei and India connection
In 2009, the Department of Telecommunications reportedly asked the telecom operators not to go for equipment made by Huawei and ZTE following security concerns. Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited or BSNL removed Huawei from its shortlist for a US$2 billion equipment contract.
In 2010, as per a report by The Times of India, Indian Huawei employees did not have access to part of Huawei’s Bangalore research and development office. The intelligence agencies have also noticed how Chinese employees were extending their stay in Bangalore for months.
Then in 2014, the Chinese firm allegedly hacked into the BSNL network. "An incident about the alleged hacking of Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) network by Huawei, a Chinese telecom company, has come to notice. The government has constituted an inter-ministerial team to investigate the matter," then Minister of State for Communications and IT Killi Kruparani said.
Cheating in benchmarking and Cameras
Huawei has been accused multiple times of rigging benchmark results and using professional cameras to capture images and then market it as it was taken from the smartphone. In 2018, various reports suggested that Huawei P20 and Honor Play phones started high-performance mode when a specific benchmarking software was detected. This resulted in higher scores on benchmarks than usual, which was criticised by many.
In 2015, the company posted a photo on Google+ featuring Ella Woodward and claimed that it was taken with Huawei P9. However, the EXIF metadata revealed that the photo was taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark III DSLR. Then again with Huawei P8, the company has caught photoshopping the bezels of the smartphone.
In 2018, the Chinese firm was again caught with a misleading marketing trick. The company shot a photo from a full-sized DSLR and posted it saying that it was taken with Huawei Nova 3 showcasing its camera prowess. However, a behind-the-scenes photo revealed that the company took the photo using a DSLR, which was shot by a professional photographer.
Ahkan Semiconductor controversy
An Illinois-based tech start-up, Akhan Semiconductor, sent a sample of its latest diamond glass technology, which is said to be 10 times stronger than Corning Gorilla Glass, to Huawei. However, when they received the sample it was all shattered, which raised some serious questions. The company then reported to FBI over potential theft of intellectual property. Huawei was alleged of Huawei destroyed their product and shipped it to China without authorisation. The company is alleged to perform some tests on the new glass technology and learned the making process via a reverse engineering.
Australia reportedly banning Huawei
In 2012, Australia media reported that the government has excluded Huawei from tendering contracts with National Broadband Network. The exclusion came regarding security concerns raised by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation.
Huawei’s reward system for stealing information
The Justice Department of the US has alleged that Huawei had a programme under which it gives rewards and bonuses to its employees for stealing information from the competitors. The Department alleged that the company will increase the bonus based on the confidential value of the information. The company was allegedly encouraging its employees to post stolen information on an internal company’s website and the information to an email address, which was then reviewed by a “competition management group”. However, Huawei said that there is no such programme.
Huawei trying to steal Apple’s technology
Huawei was reported to be stealing Apple’s trade secrets in various ways. The Chinese company was reported to allegedly copy the popular Apple Watch heart rate sensor by giving lucrative offers to the supplier, which was developing the technology for Apple.
Huawei was also suspected of copying a connector Apple developed in 2016 that made the MacBook Pro hinge thinner while attaching the laptop’s display to its logic board. The similar hinge was found in Huawei MateBook Pro. The company is alleged that it approached multiple Apple suppliers with the same scheme. However, this time one of them find the accepted the offer. The Chinese company was reported to be pressuring Foxconn in order to obtain some information about its upcoming products.
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