The government is trying to protect you from Chinese spies

In a world economy, information flows everywhere. That’s sort of the point. But, we’ve all realized that we need a little privacy. Unfortunately, it can be very hard to make that happen.

The government (surprisingly) is doing its part

Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act. This bill is designed to make sure that internet service providers use only secure equipment. It even provides funding for smaller ISPs to change out equipment that might not be secure. The bill heads to the Senate, but there is no indication if it will pass… yet.

This bill will stop internet service providers from buying equipment from overseas companies that have not demonstrated good security practices. It’s not just the phone in your hand or the laptop on your desk. There’s a lot of equipment that internet service providers and cell phone companies use to make those connections for you. That’s actually the kind of equipment this law addresses.

Huawei… the company that can’t catch a break

I’ve written before about Chinese company Huawei. They’re a very large telecom manufacturer and several years ago they made a big splash at CES. Even back then, though, there were concerns. Back when Japanese company Softbank was courting Sprint (an unholy alliance that definitely did not save Sprint), I reported that the company could be banned from using Huawei equipment because of security risks.

Flash forward five years and you see Huawei under criminal investigation for putting spyware into its network equipment.  I don’t know if they were actually doing that but it’s a big concern and obviously the government wants to make sure that Huawei is completely shut out of the US market. Of course, other vulnerable companies are mentioned as well but that’s one that just keeps popping up.

It’s all part of a bigger picture

Privacy is very important, and yet we seem to be unable to keep ourselves from giving it away. It’s scary to think that the Chinese government, who controls all Chinese corporations, so often seems to be in the middle of it.

It’s not just network hardware. Remember FaceApp, that app you installed last year to see what you’d look like as an older person? It’s Chinese-made, and you have to agree to let them use your pictures forever and ever before you use the app. All of a sudden, it doesn’t seem like such a good deal just to see how you might look in 50 years.

If you have a kid or grandkid, you’ve probably heard of TikTok, the popular video sharing app. What you probably didn’t know is that the app was developed in China and you have to agree to similar terms and conditions in order to use it. People are posting a lot of very personal information and the Chinese government has access to all of it.

What you can do

Actually, there isn’t much you can do other than avoid things that threaten to take your privacy. Unfortunately that would mean most online activities including how you bank, how you communicate with others, and what companies you do business with. If you want to live your life in 2020 you’re going to have to make tough decisions about your privacy and your choices.

Luckily, this is a case where the government is stepping in and doing what it should. They aren’t really looking at apps yet, but at least by working to make sure that companies can’t spy on you just because you connect is a good start.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 6,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.