BRASILIA (Reuters) – A U.S. official said on Wednesday that Chinese surveillance of the world through 5G technology was like Big Brother in George Orwell’s novel 1984, as he urged Brazilian companies not to buy equipment from China’s Huawei Technologies Co Ltd.
Keith Krach, U.S. under secretary of state for economic growth, energy and the environment, said multinational companies will increasingly stay away from countries that do not have safe civilian networks and risk their data and intellectual property being stolen.
“This story about the Chinese Communist party … it is a real and urgent threat to democracies like ours around the world,” Krach said in a speech on economic security at Brazil’s Getulio Vargas Foundation think tank.
“They are trying to export dictator out of the box with their surveillance tools. It is the extension of that Orwellian 1984 Big Brother surveillance,” he said, without providing evidence.
Brazil’s right-wing government announced its support on Monday for the U.S. proposal for a Clean Network, a global digital alliance that excludes technology that Washington sees as manipulated by China.
Brazil became the 50th nation to sign on to the initiative, which now includes 170 telephone firms and many of the world’s leading high-tech companies.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday that “27 of 30 NATO allies, 31 of 37 OECD members, 26 of 27 EU members, and 11 of 12 of the Three Seas nations” have joined.
Krach met in Brasilia with President Jair Bolsonaro’s national security advisor, retired army general Augusto Heleno to discuss excluding Huawei from Brazil’s 5G market, a decision the Brazilian government is considering before spectrum concessions are auctioned next year to local telcos.
Brazil’s top carriers are already testing Huawei equipment for 5G and favor keeping their purchase options open.
Huawei has repeatedly denied being a security risk. It has said it abides by Brazil’s laws and is available for tests and clarifications that authorities considered necessary.
(Reporting by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Bernadette Baum)