Everything You Need to Know About the Arrest of Huawei’s CFO

You’ve probably heard lots of noise about a top-ranking Huawei executive being arrested in the past week. Since the incident, matters have escalated even further, with potential fallout between the governments of China, Canada and the US. We tell you everything you need to know about this ongoing story, and why you should care.

Huawei’s Chief Financial Officer, Meng Wanzhou, was arrested by Canadian authorities on December 1 at the request of the US government. She has been charged with misleading multinational banks about Huawei’s control of a company operating in Iran. This put the banks at risk of violating US economic sanctions against Iran.

China responded, demanding Meng’s immediate release and criticized her arrest and detention in Canada. As it stands, Meng is currently awaiting the verdict of a bail hearing, which would delay her extradition to the US to face charges.

Update 12/12 – Meng was granted bail by a Canadian court at C$10 million ($7.5 million USD). China, meanwhile, has arrested former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig, as he many have violated China’s NGO laws while working for the International Crisis Group think tank.

So, how did we get here? And what does it mean for Huawei, China’s relationship with the US and you?

What Do We Know About The Huawei Allegations?

According to CNN, Meng is alleged to have worked to circumvent US sanctions on Iran by telling financial institutions that a Huawei subsidiary was a separate company. This would allow Huawei to sell more goods or services in the Middle Eastern country than permitted by the US sanctions.

The subsidiary company was a little-known telecoms equipment seller called Skycom. According Crown Attorney John Gibb-Carsley, “Huawei used… Skycom to transact business in Iran for Iranian telecommunication companies.”

According to Bloomberg sources, there was little tangible distinction between Skycom and Huawei, with the former simply acting as a sub-brand of the Chinese tech giant.

Paraphrasing sources, Bloomberg stated that “Skycom was part of Huawei’s company in Iran that worked on a contract with mobile operator MTN Irancell Telecommunications Services Co.” It also reported that “Former employees of Skycom have stated that it was not distinct from Huawei, and that Skycom employees had Huawei email addresses and badges.”

Currently, Canadian government prosecutors have to make the case on behalf of the US that Meng should be extradited to face charges south of the border.

Why is There Such a Fuss About This Arrest?

Meng’s arrest has caused a stir for a number of reasons. But at the heart of it all are tensions between China and the US, plus growing suspicions around the security of Huawei itself.

China, being a superpower on the rise, is seen as a threat to US political and economic influence. As one of the largest tech names in China, Huawei is being eyed with growing suspicion by the US and other western powers.

Governments around the world, including the UK, Australia, Germany, Japan and the US have all issued bans or restrictions on the use of Huawei devices by government employees. They’ve also blocked Huawei components from being used in infrastructure projects, claiming that Huawei is a vehicle for Chinese espionage.

Importantly, there’s been no tangible evidence that Huawei is involved in spying for the Chinese government. However, there’s a growing weight of opinion that it is the case – it’s something we’ve covered in depth on Tech.co previously.

Meng’s Family Connection to Huawei

There’s a further sensitivity to the arrest, as Meng is the daughter of Huawei CEO, Ren Zhengfei. While we couldn’t possibly comment on how his daughter got her job as CFO, Ren himself is a controversial figure with a powerful grip over the Huawei brand.

He was a senior figure in China’s military prior to setting up Huawei, and some have claimed that the ties between the company and the People’s Liberation Army have never been severed. Others have claimed that Huawei’s confusing corporate structure is actually designed to hide the fact that it’s controlled by the Chinese Communist Party.

However, the US doesn’t come out of this affair looking squeaky-clean, either. Asking Canada to arrest someone is perfectly legal, as long as there is good evidence to justify the arrest.

But, arresting the CFO of one of China’s National Champion companies, and the daughter of its CEO – just before trade talks with China to hopefully quell the brewing trade war – looks, well, a bit suspect.

Huawei Arrest: What Happens Next?

Meng has been granted bail but is still awaiting a court verdict which would grant her extradition to face charges in the US.

Huawei has said it has “been provided with very little information regarding the charges and is not aware of any wrongdoing by Ms Meng.” A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman told a press briefing in Beijing “We have made solemn representations to Canada and the US, demanding that both parties immediately clarify the reasons for the detention, and immediately release the detainee to protect the person’s legal rights.”

China has also arrested a former Canadian diplomat, Michael Kovrig, as it is investigating whether he broke China’s NGO laws for failing to register his activities for think tank International Crisis Group. It’s unclear whether the two arrests are related.

Michael Kovrig small

Former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig. Credit: Reuters

Beyond that, we’ll just have to wait and see how bad the fallout gets.

Rear more about China, tech and the West on Tech.co

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The post Everything You Need to Know About the Arrest of Huawei’s CFO appeared first on TechCo.

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5 Revelations From Facebook Documents Seized by UK Parliament

Almost 250 pages of internal documents from social media giant Facebook were posted online this Wednesday. The confidential documents, which detail the 2012-2015 growth period for Facebook, were released online by a U.K. parliamentary committee that obtained them last month from the plaintiff in a California lawsuit.

We don’t want to say the bombshell revelations buried in the documents are totally unscrupulous, but judging from what has been shared, scruples do seem in short supply.

Here are the top five biggest news items from the cache of documents.

1: Zuck Signed Off on Choking Vine

Twitter’s much beloved video-based social network Vine was shuttered in October 2016. Twitter mismanaged it plenty, but Facebook may have taken out a virtual hit on it behind the scenes as well.

In 2013, Vine needed to grow, and was pulling users’ Facebook friend user data in order to connect Vine users will people they knew.

Facebook vice-president Justin Osofsky wrote that “unless anyone raises objections, we will shut down their friends API [application programming interface] access today,” adding that “We’ve prepared reactive PR.”

CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s reply: “Yup, go for it.”

Granted, the news that Facebook wasn’t letting Twitter pull Facebook friend data for Vine isn’t news. It was public information in 2013, and if you were in the know, you could easily have guessed the mercenary logic behind the move. But seeing it in print crystalizes the cut-throat mentality behind growing the world’s biggest social media network.

I’ll just quote The Social Network tagline here: You don’t get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies. (It’s two billion friends now, but the point still works).

2: They Knew User Data Collection Was a “High-Risk” Move

Maybe Zuckerberg and Osofsky’s interchange was aimed at protecting their users’ data, which was and is the driving force behind Facebook’s revenue. But another internal document doesn’t appear to corroborate that theory.

“This is a pretty high-risk thing to do from a PR perspective but it appears that the growth team will charge ahead and do it,” one email says, referencing the developer data that eventually turned into a PR crisis for Facebook thanks to Cambridge Analytica.”We think the risk of PR fallout here is high […] it gets press attention, and enterprising journalists dig into what exactly the new update is requesting, then write stories about ‘Facebook uses new Android update to pry into your private life in ever more terrifying ways’.”

3: Zuckerberg Gives Us a Lesson In Leverage

That’s not to say they gave their user data away for free. Instead, they used it to get even more data from others.

As Mr. Zuckerberg wrote in 2012 about the need to get data in exchange from developers hoping to access Facebook’s data: “It’s not good for us unless people also share back to Facebook and that content increases the value of our network. So ultimately, I think the purpose of platform — even the read side — is to increase sharing back into Facebook.”

Again, this isn’t anything that business barons haven’t espoused in the past. It’s just a reminder that capitalism is about the bottom line and nothing else, straight from the one of world’s most powerful CEOs.

4: They Considered Lowering Data Transparency Even More

The level at which users’ data has become a commodity has always been high, and the general public is increasingly aware of this fact. In 2018, it’s pretty well known that the massive startups, social media companies and search engines of Silicon Valley all operate under terms and conditions agreements reminiscent of Faustian pacts. Just yesterday, the New York Times published an article on the granular knowledge of your very geographic location known to multiple apps on most people’s phones.

According to one internal email, Facebook considered reducing their data transparency even farther by introducing an upgrade that wouldn’t come with a permissions dialog notification.

“The Growth team is now exploring a path where we only request Read Call Log permission,” the email states, “and hold off on requesting other permissions for now. Based on their initial testing, it seems that this would allow us to upgrade users without subjecting them to an Android permissions dialog at all. It would still be a breaking change, so users would have to click to upgrade, but no permissions dialog screen.”

Facebook has since clarified to the Guardian that this conversation “was not a discussion about avoiding asking people for permission.”

5: Facebook Giveth Data, Facebook Taketh Away

The confidential documents mention two occasions when Facebook discussed which companies they would allow to access more data (Lyft, Airbnb and Netflix made the cut) and which competitors they would issue restrictions to, once Zuckerberg signed off on it.

“We will be whitelisted for getting all friends, not just connected friends,” Netflix clarified with Facebook at one point, while an internal note explained Zuckerberg’s involvement, saying “[w]e maintain a small list of strategic competitors that Mark personally reviewed. Apps produced by the companies on this list are subject to a number of restrictions outlined below. Any usage beyond that specified is not permitted without Mark level sign-off.”

Facebook spokespeople have responded to the cache of documents, holding that the legal case in question is “baseless” and that the internal documents “are presented in a way that is very misleading without additional context.”

However, there’s no word on what their latest internal documents said about the matter.

The post 5 Revelations From Facebook Documents Seized by UK Parliament appeared first on TechCo.

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Ask a Hero: My Parents Can’t Get PLUS Loans Anymore — How Can I Pay for College?

Dear Student Loan Hero, My parents have been taking out PLUS loans to help pay for my college. But my school just told me that now that I’m 24, I cannot use PLUS loans for this academic year. I was unaware of this, and now I am stuck not knowing how to pay for my […]

The post Ask a Hero: My Parents Can’t Get PLUS Loans Anymore — How Can I Pay for College? appeared first on Student Loan Hero.

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