Chinese firms accused of sending U.S. consumers’ personal data to Beijing

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Three Chinese wireless providers are under investigation by the Biden administration because the personal data of U.S. consumers that are obtained by China Mobile, China Unicom, and China Telecom could be exploited by the trio. The three Chinese wireless firms allegedly collect the data through their U.S. cloud and internet businesses and deliver the information to Beijing the Customs Department claims. Three sources reportedly passed along word of the investigation to Reuters and requested anonymity because the probe has yet to be announced.

The Commerce Department is expected to run the investigation and it has already subpoenaed the three Chinese wireless firms. The regulatory agency also completed “risk-based analyses” of China Mobile and China Telecom. Such work has not yet been completed on China Unicom. The three companies have a small business preference in the U.S. delivering cloud services and routing wholesale U.S. internet traffic. This gives them access to U.S. consumers’ personal data even though all three firms were banned from offering phone and retail internet service in the U.S.

The three Chinese companies did not comment on the report nor did the firms’ U.S.-based lawyers. The Justice Department said it would not issue a statement and the White House referred questions to the Commerce Department which joined the pack and refused to comment. A statement was issued by the Chinese Embassy in Washington D.C. which said that it hopes the U.S. will “stop suppressing Chinese companies under false pretexts.” The embassy said that China will continue defending Chinese companies’ rights and interests.

Reuters conducted its own investigation and discovered no evidence that the three companies provided any personal data about U.S. consumers to the Chinese government. The news agency added that it could not find any evidence of wrongdoing by the companies. The U.S. government has been trying to stop Chinese firms from obtaining U.S. consumers’ personal information and exploiting it in an effort to harm U.S. citizens, companies, and national security. 

Experts and sources say that the administration could damage China Mobile, China Unicom, and China Telecom’s ability to deliver U.S.-facing cloud and internet services to global customers while preventing the trio from running its remaining U.S. businesses.


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