Huawei Technologies Co (華為) will back Apple Inc as it contests a US court order requiring the unlocking of a San Bernardino shooting suspect’s iPhone, taking the side of the industry’s largest names in a clash over the balance between law enforcement and consumer privacy.
China’s largest smartphone maker joined Google Inc and other technology companies in supporting Apple chief executive officer Tim Cook, who last week vowed to fight a court order compelling the company to help the FBI break into the telephone used by one of the shooters in the California attack.
Consumer privacy is key for smartphone makers, Richard Yu, the chief executive officer of Huawei’s fast-growing consumer devices division, said on Sunday.
Huawei is one of the first major Asian technology companies to speak out on a debate that has galvanized an industry long resistant to government efforts to gain access to data in criminal cases.
Cook said that complying with the order would set a dangerous precedent, compromise a key security feature and possibly allow governments, criminals or other parties to access sensitive data in future.
The US government argues it is a one-time request that would aid an important investigation.
“It’s the top one, the most important thing to the consumer. We should really protect the consumer’s privacy and security,” said Yu, who was at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona to unveil Huawei’s first laptop. “Personally, I support Apple’s, Tim Cook’s idea.”
Huawei showed off the laptop — which is powered by Microsoft Corp’s Windows 10 and comes with a detachable screen — to help fuel its rapid ascent in consumer devices. Now the world’s No. 3 smartphone maker, behind Samsung Electronics Co and Apple according to IDC, Huawei has aspirations of becoming the No. 1 brand in five years.
The Chinese company, which debuted its first device using Google’s Android in 2009 to complement its business of making networking equipment, shipped more than 100 million smartphones last year for the first time, after it focused on improving quality and moved into the less crowded premium segment.
Huawei received 70 percent of its consumer sales from abroad last year, Yu said.
“Five years ago, we were top 10, now we are top three. Within two to three years, we can be top two, within five years, we can be No. 1,” Yu said.
In China, “the whole market is saturated and there is a little bit of a slowdown, but our market share, Huawei’s market share, we are increasing,” Yu added.
As for the US, Yu said consumers there are opening up to a Chinese brand that has had its networking equipment criticized by US politicians, some of whom cited alleged ties to the Chinese government.
Huawei has denied those links.
“They will become more open. Our products sell worldwide, in over 170 countries, for many years,” Yu said. “For consumer electronic products, even better — because we’re learning the Android OS from Google, a US company.”
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