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Tuesday, 10 November 2020 08:55

Huawei, Assange may gain from Biden presidential win

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Huawei, Assange may gain from Biden presidential win Image by Kevin Snyman from Pixabay

With the US administration changing next year, it is very likely that Google will be able to get a waiver on selling the proprietary version of its Android operating system to Chinese telecommunications vendor Huawei Technologies, something it has been unable to do ever since the Trump administration put in place sanctions on the Chinese firm.

Another likely beneficiary of the return of sanity to the White House could be WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange who is in jail in London, waiting for an announcement by a British court to know whether it has decided to extradite him to the US or not.

In May 2019, the US placed Huawei on its Entity List; American firms cannot sell products made in the US with more than 25% of American content to companies placed on this list without obtaining a licence. But Huawei was able to easily skirt around this restriction by getting products it needed supplied by branches of US firms located outside the physical boundaries of the US.

About the only outcome from the Entity List entry to affect Huawei was its inability to continue using the proprietary version of Android; this includes apps like Gmail, Maps, Drive, YouTube, the PlayStore and Photos. Huawei had to confine itself to using the open-source version of Android, which has none of these apps, and is trying to create replacements.

Google applied for an exemption to continue supplying Huawei, but did not get one. Microsoft was more successful, obtaining a waiver from the Department of Commerce to continue supplying the Shenzhen firm with its Windows operating system that Huawei uses on its laptops.

However, Huawei's component supply issues will not be over until companies that use American technology to produce semiconductors are able to get a licence to resume supply of the latest chips for its flagship smartphones. Huawei has used its own own Kirin processors, which are designed by its HiSilicon unit, and made by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, using 5nm chips, for its flagship models, but cannot do so any more.

Its inability to get these SoCs made stems from the fact that TSMC uses American equipment and products made using such equipment are off-limits to Huawei due to restrictions imposed by Washington in August.

Whether the incoming president, Joe Biden, will see fit to moderate the sanctions imposed on Huawei remains to be seen. But Google, a known favourite of the Democrats, is more or less certain to get the waiver it sought earlier this year.

As for Assange, he is likely to benefit from a decision made while Barack Obama was president, when his administration considered whether it could bring criminal charges against Assange and WikiLeaks for publishing classified information.

As American journalist Glenn Greenwald wrote: "...the Obama DoJ concluded such a prosecution would pose a severe threat to press freedom because there would be no way to prosecute Assange for publishing classified documents without also prosecuting The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian and others for doing exactly the same thing."

Assange, one of Australia's best known hackers who was involved in attacks on several American government organisations in the 1980s, is currently held in a maximum security prison in Belmarsh, UK.

WikiLeaks exposed the cynicism and savagery that Washington displays in combat areas, when it released a video titled Collateral Murder that showed unarmed Iraqi civilians being gunned down by an American helicopter in Iraq.

Assange was arrested by British police on 11 April and removed from the Ecuador embassy where he had taken refuge. His asylum was withdrawn shortly before he was arrested and he appeared in court shortly thereafter. The US made a formal request for his extradition on 6 June 2019.


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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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