Technology is often referred to as a tool to help us to take the next great steps forward. It was said of smartphones, WiFi, and the growing trend of artificial intelligence.
However, there are some threats that stem from technology such as the UK’s 5G outsourcing that has recently seen wider discussion, broadly based around countries using technology and wider communications as a foreign policy tool.
TikTok is huge, as a social media brand it has found itself growing almost exponentially, and in doing so it has found itself with over 500 million users around the world.
However, deeper analysis into the application has found that it collects a significant amount of data on its users, much more than has been collected by rivals such as Facebook and Twitter.
Although not strictly infrastructure, TikTok is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, which may be compelled to transfer data to the Chinese government. This provides a significant security risk and puts China in a significant position of power going forward.
Over recent months, a debate has been raging in the UK over whether or not to include China in the creation of our 5G infrastructure. Although Chinese contractors could do it affordably, there was a significant security risk in allowing this to go forward.
By using Huawei for the outsourcing of 5G, countries risk opening themselves up to network backdoors and ‘serious and system defects in Huawei’s software engineering and cybersecurity competence’, as was reported by the UK’s Cyber Security board. Using Huawei’s infrastructure opens the UK up to not only cyberattacks from small-scale hackers but vulnerability to a potential foreign policy opponent.
Is this inevitable?
As the world has gotten more connected and communication has become quicker and simpler, the homogenisation and outsourcing of network creation were bound to happen.
As a simple fact, China has the capacity and affordability to set up networks around the world as part of its “Belt and Road” strategy. Major countries are bound to use these new technologies to try to gain a strategic advantage, but a country as major as the UK doesn’t need to fall into the trap of a cheap network. China’s influence was likely, but it’s ultimately the UK’s choice to fall into it.
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