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GOP senators press Google on reports it developed a smart speaker with Huawei

GOP senators press Google on reports it developed a smart speaker with Huawei
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Republicans senators Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioSenate GOP to drop documentary series days before election hitting China, Democrats over coronavirus Bipartisan group of senators call on Trump to sanction Russia over Navalny poisoning Trump's new interest in water resources — why now? MORE (Fla.), Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonCotton mocks NY Times over claim of nonpartisanship, promises to submit op-eds as test Barrett fight puts focus on abortion in 2020 election COVID outbreak threatens GOP's Supreme Court plans MORE (Ark.), and Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyInfrastructure, energy investments urgently needed to create U.S. jobs Justice Department charges Google with illegally maintaining search monopoly Conservatives seize on New York Post story to push Section 230 reform MORE (Mo.) demanded answers from Google on Wednesday about its work to develop a smart speaker with Chinese telecommunications group Huawei.

In a letter to Google CEO Sundar Pichai, the senators noted that a few weeks ago an unnamed representative from the company had "denied, under oath, that Google has been conducting any substantial business in China."

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However, the senators cited recent reports that Google had been collaborating with Huawei to create a smart speaker that would have the capacity to listen to users.

The collaboration took place before the Department of Commerce announced in May that it would add Huawei to the “entity list.”  That step effectively banned U.S. companies from doing business with Huawei.

The senators also detailed steps Google has allegedly taken to advance business in China that they wrote “appeared designed to gain favor with the Chinese Communist Party.”

These actions, according to the senators, included working with the Chinese military, working with China to create a search engine that would allow censorship, and opening an artificial intelligence center in Beijing. 

"Your attempts three weeks ago to downplay your involvement in China, plus new revelations about your close relationship with Huawei, raise serious questions," the thee senators wrote.

“Given this background, it is hard to interpret your decision to help Huawei place listening devices into millions of American homes as anything other than putting profits before country,” the senators also said.

The senators gave Google until Aug. 30 to respond to questions including why it partnered with Huawei in the first place to create the smart speakers, whether it plans to resume work on the speakers after Huawei was added to the entity list, and whether Google had considered national security risks posed by Huawei. 

“Huawei poses serious concerns about national security,” the senators added. “The oppressive Chinese Communist Party exercises enormous influence over the company. Huawei has even admitted that it hosts a branch of the party within the company itself.”

A spokesperson for Google pushed back against concerns around its involvement with Huawei, telling The Hill that "we have no smart speakers in development with Huawei and will always prioritize privacy and security.”

Huawei has denied that it poses a national security risk.

Rubio previously introduced legislation in July alongside Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsTrump expressed doubt to donors GOP can hold Senate: report Murkowski says she will vote to confirm Barrett to Supreme Court on Monday Biden's oil stance jars Democrats in tough races MORE (R-Maine) and Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyWill anyone from the left realize why Trump won — again? Ratings drop to 55M for final Trump-Biden debate Bipartisan group of senators call on Trump to sanction Russia over Navalny poisoning MORE (R-Utah) that would prohibit the removal of Huawei from the entity list until after the secretary of Commerce certified Huawei as not posing a national security threat. 

This was in response to President TrumpDonald John TrumpObama slams Trump in Miami: 'Florida Man wouldn't even do this stuff' Trump makes his case in North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin Pence's chief of staff tests positive for COVID-19 MORE’s announcement in June that U.S. companies would be allowed to do business with Huawei in cases where there were no national security concerns. 

The letter was sent the same day the Department of Defense, the General Services Administration, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration issued an interim rule banning federal agencies from purchasing telecommunications equipment from Huawei and four other Chinese companies after Aug. 13.

-Updated at 9:57 p.m.