The Strife over Rights and the Making of 5G Technology

Digital security has become an issue of extreme importance for the international community. Unleashing untapped potential with increasingly efficient, accessible, and customizable technological means has opened up a multitude of opportunities for both societal and human development. In turn, simultaneously being established are the heightened odds of privacy invasion, data collection, and faster data transmissions than ever in human history. Anonymity in the twenty-first century has been compromised, with individuals willingly trading traditional forms of privacy within households, businesses, and public spaces creating more efficient, and personable societal processes. Governments and leaders in power have learned to adopt policies and regulations to keep up to date technologies. However, simply reviewing the rapid advancement that has occurred in the past two decades calls for greater attention to monitor the consequences of these developments closely, in order for countries to be prepared for the strife over ownership rights.

Global Chinese tech giant Huawei is one of the most prominent names in the tech market today. Not only has it dominated markets across the globe, but it has its foot in the front door of innovating the newest technologies, including the 5G network. The 5G network is one that promises to connect any and all things of society- from household appliances to security cameras, dog leashes to dialysis pumps. Consider the abilities of the 4G network today and imagine all its capabilities enhanced. In order for the 5G network to operate, it requires the dense placement of cellular relays in close proximity, due to its rapid cellular waves that can be easily disrupted by environmental factors. Not only does the 5G network promise to allow individuals access to the Internet a hundred times faster, but there will be a reduction in latency.  According to the New Yorker, the 5G network would usher in around 12 trillion dollars into the global economy by the year 2035. Lagging computers, waiting for movies to load, and waiting times will be mementos of the past.

While recognizing Huawei’s leading position in the development of the 5G technology, past records reveal a documented history of industrial cyber espionage, international data theft, and domestic spying. A 2012 United States congressional report voiced opinions by President Donald Trump of Huawei’s presence in the US. Countries such as Australia and parts of the United Kingdom have joined in the discussion, effectively denying Huawei entry into their markets, countries, and privacy. Rising suspicions of the Chinese government utilizing Huawei to infiltrate borders and spy on other countries, uncertainty and lack of knowledge towards the technical workings of the 5G technology- namely its software layer nature, meaning constant updating into revised versions creating an unknown diversion of data, are some of the few reasons for hesitation and additional deliberation towards Huawei’s technology proposal. This considerably advanced technology that is still new in development, combined with the potential of China’s control of digital commands, is surely an ethical and technological dilemma that leaves room for uncertainty, if not handled and monitored properly.

Meanwhile, Huawei ambassadors around the world have been urging governments and markets to rest their fears of espionage. CBC’s interview with Huawei Canada’s chief security officer, Olivera Zatezalo, recently spoke on the absence of relation between Huawei China and Huawei Canada’s operations. Zatezalo’s assurance that Huawei Canada is working transparently with the Canadian government is mirrored by the actions of the Chinese ambassador Liu Xiaoming towards the United Kingdom. Ambassador Liu urged for the government to make a decision for the market, free from political and diplomatic influence. As with every country who has grappled with the decision of allowing Huawei into their markets, conservative MPs in the United Kingdom have also voiced their concerns with having China “anywhere near” communication systems, expressing their concern with the implications of allowing a Chinese technological giant to influence the country, without precautionary measures set in place.

With the potential influence Huawei, as well as its backing country China can potentially attain in gaining access to the global markets, any and all defences against potential cyber security infiltrations should be heavily deliberated. Through 5G technology, data tracking will soon be able to reveal where an individual came from, where they are headed, and all information in between. This sensitive and previously private information will be subject to manipulation and misuse by governments if safeguards and policy regulations are not established in a timely manner. Implementing precautions alongside the construction of this technology is not a matter that should be taken lightly in the cyber realm; rather, it is is one in which its consequences will be detrimental if left unaddressed. A consensus reached by all countries will better protect society against the very innovations that were built to enhance the world as it is today.


Featured Image: ITU Workshop on 5G Security. Via Flickr.com.ITU Workshop on 5G Security in Geneva, 2018, by A. Meshkurti via Flickr.com. Licensed under CC BY 2.0.

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and do not necessarily represent the views of the NATO Association of Canada.

Tiffany Kwok

About Tiffany Kwok

Tiffany Kwok is an incoming third year student at the University of Toronto pursuing a Double Major in Political Science and Urban Studies, with a Minor in French language. She is passionate about human rights, refugee movements, and women in politics. In 2018, she spent a month attending University of Oxford to complete a course on Human Rights and International Relations. Tiffany finds passion in starting and continuing conversations about topics ranging from human rights protections to multiculturalism. In 2019, she has attended the New York United Nations Youth Assembly, was chosen for the UofT Women in House program, represented the riding of Spadina Fort-York at Daughters of the Vote in Parliament, and was also a participant at the Prime Minister’s Canada Youth Summit early May. She is also the incoming President of the UofT Chapter of RefugeAid, an NGO committed to standing up for, and raising money and awareness for refugees arriving in Canada. Post internship, Tiffany is striving towards a career of working at the United Nations, and within Canadian politics.