Huawei Reveres Apple As A Customer Privacy Role Model

It's no secret that Huawei has beyond-top respect for American tech giant Apple Inc., but the company says its admiration goes beyond software and hardware to customer privacy as well.

Huawei says that Apple is its role model in customer privacy, and that, if asked by the Chinese Government to unlock devices and allow access to user data, Huawei will pull an "Apple" and refuse the request. Apple did the same when the Federal Government requested it unlock the iPhone 5c of the San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook three years ago.

Huawei is no stranger to admiring Apple, as the company also admires Apple's software design in iOS. Much of the company's EMUI Android "skin" imitates iOS icons, and Huawei also tries to implement upcoming features rumored from the fruit company before Apple releases them. A good example of this is "Force Touch," the 3D press feature that was rumored to arrive in the iPhone 6s in 2015 and was already present on the Apple Watch.

Huawei's P9 smartphone in 2016 was said to copy the antenna bands, styling, and finish of the iPhone. The Huawei P20 Pro drew heavy inspiration from the iPhone, with Huawei copying the Apple Music, Health icon, clock, and weather app icons as well as the notch, the same vertical camera arrangement as the iPhone, and even the glass-metal build quality.

Other imitations include Huawei's MateBook Pro, whose hinge is eerily similar to that of Apple's MacBook Pro. Huawei tried to hand its hinge design schematic to Apple's suppliers, who refused to build its hinge because of how much of an Apple MacBook clone it was. Finally, Huawei even tried to copy the Apple Watch design and attempted to steal trade secrets about the device according to The Information from February of this year.

It isn't surprising, then, that Huawei would give any kind of nod to Apple; the company has such admiration for Apple it doesn't know what to do with it. Of course, the company also copies Samsung with the move toward curved edges on its latest flagships such as the P30 Pro.

Huawei CEO Ren Zhengfei's stance with regard to consumer privacy is a noble statement but one that Huawei will ultimately have to prove. Currently, the Shenzhen-based corporation is on the US Entity List, seen as a threat to national security because of a potential espionage risk and Huawei's ties to the People's Liberation Army of China (PLA) and the Chinese Government.

While Huawei has said that it doesn't have ties to the Chinese Government or the military (extremely government-loyal), surfacing evidence in recent weeks suggests otherwise. First, Huawei employees have published research articles alongside military personnel, with their research papers displaying the Huawei logo for identification. Next, Huawei employees have served in the military, including Huawei's CEO, who worked in telecommunications while serving in the PLA.

Huawei says that its employees have to demonstrate they are no longer working for the military to work for Huawei, and that the company does strict background checks, but that seems hard to believe when a number of Huawei employees are found to have 1) had strong military backgrounds before coming to Huawei or 2) have worked for Huawei while teaching in military positions given to them by the PLA at the same time.

The situation is truly ironic for Huawei: it says it doesn't have ties to the Chinese Government and that, if prompted to hand over user data and invade consumer privacy, it would not. And yet, many Huawei employees come from backgrounds where they have learned how to hack into devices and run intelligence operations. Huawei only employs the brightest -- and where else could one find such a group other than in the Chinese military?

Unfortunately, with all the bright, ex-military potential in Huawei's company, its devices have been found to have potential backdoors, according to Finite State, which says that it found potential backdoors in at least 55% of the company's devices.

That, coupled with Huawei-backed Oversight Board Huawei Cyber Security Evaluation Centre's (HCSEC) latest report on vulnerabilities in Huawei's software that have gone unfixed, indicates that Huawei, while copying Apple's software (EMUI) and hardware designs (MateBook Pro/MacBook Pro, Huawei Watch/Apple Watch, Huawei phones/iPhone, etc.), has failed to imitate Apple in consumer privacy.

With all the software loopholes, and Huawei's strong military ties to the PLA, there's no way Huawei is as committed to consumer privacy as it says. And, with Huawei employees having backgrounds in hacking and intelligence, it seems hard to believe that these ex-military loyalists wouldn't obey the Chinese Government if so ordered.

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About the Author

Deidre Richardson

Staff News Writer
Deidre Richardson is a tech lover whose insatiable desire for all things tech has kept her in tech journalism some eight years now. She is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she earned BA degrees in both History and Music. Since graduating from Carolina in 2006, Richardson obtained a Master of Divinity degree and spent four years in postgraduate seminary studies. She's written five books since 2017 and all of them are available at Amazon. You can connect with Deidre Richardson on Facebook.