GOP Senators: Google ‘Putting Profits Before Country’ with Huawei Partnership

A Huawei logo is displayed at a retail store in Beijing on May 20, 2019. - US internet giant Google, whose Android mobile operating system powers most of the world's smartphones, said it was beginning to cut ties with China's Huawei, which Washington considers a national security threat. (Photo by …
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

Sens. Josh Hawley (R-MO), Tom Cotton (R-AK), and Marco Rubio (R-FL) sent a letter to Google CEO Sundar Pichai Wednesday, demanding answers about the company’s relationship with China’s Huawei after reports the search giant claimed that were not conducting substantial business in China.

The senators said that Google put its “profits before country” with its partnership with Huawei.

The trio of Republican senators demanded answers from Pichai after reports revealed that Google and Huawei were collaborating on a Huawei-branded smart speaker and were “even closer than previously understood.”

The senators noted that in July, Karan Bhatia, Google’s vice president of global government affairs and public policy, “denied, under oath, that Google has been conducting any substantial business in China.”

The Republican lawmakers said that the Huawei-branded smart speakers would allow for them to surveil Americans’ personal conversations.

“These devices can enable untrustworthy companies to listen in on Americans’ conversations,” they wrote. “Your attempts three weeks ago to downplay your involvement in China, plus new revelations about your close relationship with Huawei, raise serious questions.”
The report carries a particularly concerning national security implication as Google recently suspended its contractors from listening to Google Assistant audio around the world after a data leak found that the search giant had been recording users without their prior knowledge.
Sens. Hawley, Rubio, and Cotton demanded to know what due diligence the search giant took before putting a “listening device into millions of American living rooms,” including:
  • To what extent Google considered the national security implications of working with Huawei, noting that Marine General Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified before Congress in March that Google’s partnership with Chinese companies provides a “direct benefit” to the Chinese military.
  • Why Google’s partnership with Huawei continued for “months” after a federal government seal indictment found, in the words of the Washington Post, that Huawei “is determined to succeed by using theft and duplicity.”
  • What national security vulnerabilities they learned while working with Huawei, and what steps Google took to eliminate those national security threats before agreeing to work with the Chinese tech company.
  • Reports suggested that Google “suspended” the project with Huawei because the Chinese company was placed on a trade blacklist and whether the company will work with Huawei if the blacklist is lifted.

The senators also suggested that Google has had a concerning relationship with China outside of its partnership with Huawei. Until 2010, Google ran a censored search engine called Google.cn and only stopped the project after it was targeted in a hacking attempt. Google was also developing a more sophisticated search engine called Project Dragonfly and the project was only ended after internal backlash amongst Google employees. Google also opened an artificial intelligence office in Beijing, China.

“Given this background, it is hard to interpret your decision to help Huawei place listening devices into millions of American homes as anything other than putting profits before country,” the senators wrote.

Sean Moran is a congressional reporter for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter @SeanMoran3.

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