Chinese Telecom Leverages Firefox for Image of Privacy

Take a company with an internal, shadowy board run by the government that was called out for violating customer privacy.

Team it up with a company that is one of the best known for openness and privacy.

Then create a smartphone, and put it on eBay for $60.

This is exactly what is taking place right now with the new ZTE Open Firefox OS phone, and it’s looking like a privacy advocate’s nightmare.

Mozilla, a U.S. software company praised for its openness and respect for user rights, has teamed up with ZTE, a Chinese telecom with an internal board controlled by the Chinese Communist Party, which is decried for its violation of openness and respect for user rights.

The ZTE Open Firefox OS phone was announced by Mozilla on Aug. 12, and turned some heads in the tech world, not only for its $60 price tag, but also for the positive reputation Mozilla has from its Firefox Web browser.

Yet, there was little discussion about the other company behind the phone: Chinese telecom ZTE.

On Oct. 8, 2012, a report from the U.S. House Intelligence Committee warned companies to avoid Chinese telecoms ZTE and Huawei, stating that doing business with the telecoms can put a company and its users at risk.

The report came after an extensive review of Huawei and ZTE, which included interviews with both companies. It pointed out that both have internal boards controlled by the Chinese regime. It states that, while the companies put on a show of being cooperative during interviews and congressional hearings, they avoided questions, and declined to provide crucial information on the grounds that it would violate China’s spying laws.

The conclusion of the report was clear and simple: “Based on available classified and unclassified information, Huawei and ZTE cannot be trusted to be free of foreign state influence and thus pose a security threat to the United States and to our systems.”

An even clearer warning was given by Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee in an interview with “60 Minutes.”

Rogers said, “I would find another vendor if you care about your intellectual property, if you care about your consumers’ privacy, and you care about the national security of the United States of America.”

Read the full story here.