The Current

Is Huawei a security threat to Canada? Risks could be closer to home, says columnist

Canada is under pressure to ban Huawei from supplying technology to build the country's 5G wireless network, a move that allies like Germany and Australia have already undertaken. We talk to a panel of experts to discuss the security risks, and the politics.

U.S. urging Canada to ban Chinese tech giant from helping build its 5G network

Companies such as Amazon have more information on us than Huawei cares to have, a Toronto business writer argues. (Luis Gene/AFP/Getty Images)
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People who are raising security concerns about Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei are overlooking companies closer to home, according to Toronto Star business columnist David Olive.

"Companies like Amazon and Google and the Royal Bank of Canada, if you bank electronically, they already know far more about us than Beijing will ever know or care to know," Olive told The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti.

"So I think we need to have a serious discussion about just who is spying on who."

Christopher Parsons, a senior research associate at the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto, tells The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti the risks posed by other companies may not have been studied as much as those posed by Huawei. 0:40

Earlier this month, the U.S. Commerce Department added Huawei to a list of firms that U.S. companies need permission to work with, but then eased restrictions.

The U.S. argues that the Chinese government could use Huawei's smartphones and network equipment to spy on Americans, but China has denounced those allegations.

The Current asked Huawei and the Chinese Embassy in Ottawa for comment, but did not hear back.

Canada to ban Huawei from supplying technology that would help Canada build its 5G wireless network.

U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence is scheduled to pay a visit to Canada this week, and is expected to raise the issue.

Olive said intellectual property theft is widespread within the high-tech industry and in business, and argued Huawei has a better record than many companies around the world.

He cited Microsoft as one example of how other companies have access to our information, explaining that the company pushes programming and other updates into his computer.

"And I have no control over what that American company does by invading my privacy," he said.

To discuss what's at stake for Canada as it considers whether or not to let Huawei help build its 5G network, Tremonti spoke to:

  • Elsa Kania, an adjunct senior fellow with the Center for a New American Security, a national security think-tank based in Washington, D.C.
  • Christopher Parsons, a senior research associate at the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto.
  • David Olive, a business columnist with the Toronto Star.

Click 'listen' near the top of this page to hear the full conversation.


With files from CBC News and Reuters. Produced by John Chipman, Julie Crysler and Cameron Perrier.

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