Home news Huawei and ZTE have been added to the FCC’s Worst Blocklist

Huawei and ZTE have been added to the FCC’s Worst Blocklist

Clash of engineering cultures

by George Mensah

The FCC has officially banned Huawei and ZTE handsets, as well as several other brands, in the most extreme move yet to address the reported security issues of Chinese-manufactured smartphones. The devices are now classified by the FCC at its most stringent level.

While the companies took various steps to comply with American regulations — Huawei even created a spinoff Honor to license its phones to less legally troubled third parties — such efforts proved to be too little, too late.

Further progress on the issue is unlikely in the near term. Many of the elements that the United States claims jeopardize security are mandated by Chinese law, which asserts the state’s right to access data on privately owned electronics. That issue has proven more contentious in the United States, where security backdoors mandated by China are viewed as jeopardizing both individual privacy and national security.

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As we previously reported, the fundamental issue that the FCC and American law enforcement have with Huawei, ZTE, and other Chinese manufacturers’ phones is a critical design feature in the Chinese market. Chinese phones must be available on demand to Chinese government officials. Multiple court decisions in the United States have stated that such a right does not exist for American law enforcement.

The question remains unresolved. The EFF has outlined the current situation, but as of October, there is no universal legal standard governing whether law enforcement has the authority to access an American’s phone data. If they have such a right, it is unclear what data they collect and under what circumstances.


According to the New York Times, Apple famously went back and forth with the FBI about decrypting the San Bernadino shooter’s iPhone. For the time being, all we know for certain is that the FCC will not allow phones designed to provide easy government access to be sold on the American market.

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