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US Investigates Chinese Telcos Over Data Security Concerns

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The United States government has launched an investigation into Chinese telecommunications companies China Mobile, China Telecom, and China Unicom amid fears that these firms might transfer US data to the Chinese government through their US cloud and wholesale routing services.

According to Reuters, which cited three anonymous sources, the US Commerce Department has issued subpoenas to the three companies. It has also completed “risk-based analyses” for China Mobile and China Telecom, though progress on China Unicom’s investigation lags behind.

These companies are China’s leading state-owned mobile operators, collectively serving around 1.7 billion customers domestically. Internationally, they offer a range of telecommunications and IT services. However, their US operations have been minimal since 2019, when the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) barred them from providing telephony and broadband services over national security concerns. Their wholesale cloud services in the US, although a small segment of their business, have not yet been affected by these sanctions.

The US government is now considering extending these sanctions to include wholesale cloud services, citing risks that such services could route US data through China, making it accessible to the Chinese government. The investigation also covers internet exchange points (PoPs) and cloud services, which are critical infrastructures where data interception or manipulation could occur.

In response, the Chinese embassy has urged the US to cease its actions against Chinese companies, arguing that the US is acting on “false pretexts” and asserting that China will protect the rights and interests of its businesses.

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