U.S. government agencies have shown concern about the use of equipment manufactured by Huawei Technologies. The company was designated as a national security threat in 2020 by the Federal Communication Commission, and Congress has also taken steps to stop government funds from being used to purchase Huawei equipment. In addition, a $1.9 billion "rip and replace" program to remove equipment from companies like Huawei was initiated by former president Donald Trump and continues under the Biden administration.
American Family News spoke to Jon Pelson, a telecommunications expert and author, who explains the dangers inherent in using Huawei equipment.
"Pieces of a puzzle" – in the form of metadata – "could be put together to identify what American military or intelligence resources are essentially doing around the world," he shares.
As he explains, metadata doesn't provide the specific content of communication by phone call or email, but it does provide information about various other parts of the communication. The common term for this kind of information is "chatter" – and chatter can be likened to metadata, the expert explains.
"It doesn't tell everything, but it might tell where someone is travelling, who they're talking to, or who they are physically meeting with," says Pelson. "However, the metadata could show that two people are in the same location at the same time; so, the obvious assumption would be that they're meeting."
The author adds that sudden changes in activity might also indicate that something is being planned. "For example, there used to be two calls a week between two individuals – but they've been talking 15 times a day for the last few days," he tells AFN.
Because communication is encrypted, the Chinese Communist Party may not be able to use Huawei to gain access to exactly what military personnel are saying – but metadata could provide enough information to know when a particular unit is out on patrol and where they are located, according to Pelson.
He cites, for example, that military personnel in Afghanistan would likely be connecting to cell towers provided by the Chinese regime.
"The metadata gathered from their network may not necessarily identify who's talking, but it would tell you people are talking to each other with this frequency and from these locations," he says. "These are not obscure things, but [they are] important pieces of a puzzle."
"Companies like Huawei must be banned no matter how good and cheap it appears," the telecom expert advises. He offers this analogy: "What's the difference between keeping a burglar and the landlord out?" The difference, he answers, is that "the landlord has the key."
Pelson contends there are no strategic benefits for anyone, especially the U.S. military, to rely on Huawei equipment to communicate. He states, "Chinese-managed wireless control networks, like Huawei, keep users dependent on their services, because they remain responsible for updating it, securing it, refreshing it, and maintaining it." The company can also withhold parts or service at any time, he warns.
Jon Pelson is author of "Wireless Wars: China's Dangerous Domination of 5G and How We're Fighting Back."