Huawei founder says Apple is the inspiration behind its privacy policy


Chinese company Huawei wants the media buzz that would come with releasing the world's first foldable phone.
Huawei doesn't want to be known as the alleged Chinese spy phone brand. Unsurprisingly.
Photo: Kārlis Dambrāns/Flickr CC

Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei says that, when it comes to user privacy, Apple is the company he models his approach on.

Huawei has been under fire for possibly posing a spying-related security risk, resulting in a temporary U.S. ban. However, Zhengfei says that it would not provide data to the Chinese government at any cost.

“We will never do such a thing,” he told the Financial Times. “If I had done it even once, the U.S. would have evidence to spread around the world. Then the 170 countries and regions in which we currently operate would stop buying our products, and our company would collapse.”

“After that, who would pay the debts we owe?” Zhengfei continued. “Our employees are all very competent, so they would resign and start their own companies, leaving me alone to pay off our debts. I would rather die.”

Zhengfei then said that data is owned by the customers, not Huawei. While carriers track users in order for the phone system to function, “we as an equipment provider don’t track any data.”

Copying Apple’s position

Apple has long made a case for its pro-privacy stance. This even caused a highly-publicized standoff with the FBI after Apple refused to help unlock a phone.

Copying Apple’s rhetoric on this topic may go some way toward restoring user trust in Huawei. (Although, obviously, talking the talk and walking the walk are not necessarily the same thing.)

Nonetheless, it’s no surprise to hear Zhengfei cite Apple as an inspiration. Zhengfei has said in the past that he is a big Apple fan. He notes that he buys iPhones for himself and his family. Last year, when his daughter Meng Wanzhou — Huawei’s CFO — was arrested in Canada, she was carrying an iPhone, MacBook, and iPad.

Huawei made headlines in 2018 when it overtook Apple overall smartphone sales. While Apple is still by far the bigger company when it comes to profits, Huawei is certainly enjoying a rapid climb.