Chinese smartphone manufacturer Honor, a former sub-brand of Huawei, is now stepping in Western markets in the face of mounting sanctions against the latter. Nevertheless, Honor indirectly belongs to the Chinese state and its products present major security issues that make them dangerous for journalists to use.
Huawei is China’s leading telecom company and the world’s largest phone manufacturer. Nonetheless, sanctions imposed on the brand in Western countries due to “security concerns” have limited its ability to expand beyond China.
Honor, originally a Huawei sub-brand nearly identical in manufacturing and function, has recently become an independent company, seemingly to serve as an “extension of Huawei” on Western markets. Indeed, despite its similarities with its former parent company, Honor has not been affected by the sanctions, which has enabled the new brand to expand in Western countries.
As a company registered in China, Honor could be compelled to hand over private user data, following Chinese cybersecurity laws. Besides, with no major differentiation between the two brands as Honor is built on former Huawei staff, supply chains, and R&D, Honor devices are also at risk of being compromised by spyware sending data to Chinese servers like Huawei has. These security risks pose a threat to journalists, especially to the ones critical of the Chinese regime as communication and information on Honor phones may be accessible to Chinese authorities.
A state-owned company
Honor’s links to Chinese authorities even goes further than that of Huawei. Contrary to Huawei that is registered as a private company, Honor is de facto owned by the Chinese state, as it was created through a complicated series of subsidiary companies controlled entirely by the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission.
Whatever degree of influence the Chinese regime had over Huawei, it is certain to have a much more active hand in Honor. Honor being a relatively young company, there is no evidence so far of wrongdoing, but its phones are just as likely to collect data and just as likely, if not more, to be at risk of handing it over to the Chinese regime. For these reasons, journalists, and especially the ones working on China-related issues, should avoid using Honor products entirely.