Amsterdam universities UvA and VU have signed a deal with contentious Chinese tech conglomerate Huawei despite government warnings, the Financieele Dagblad published on Tuesday.
The multi-national company, which is widely alleged of spying for the Chinese government, is increasingly unsolicited in most European countries, but the universities’ act has divided opinion, the paper reports. The deal, signed on May 15, covers a €3.5m payment to both universities which will apparently be utilized to finance a lab for the advancing IT setup, by recruiting around 100 people. Students at the lab will be explicitly tasked with advanced tech for a search machine for Huawei, which has been excluded from using Google on its mobile phones.
Nonetheless, the Dutch government doesn’t seem to be happy with these arrangements, the government did issue warnings because the deal could result in an ‘unwanted transfer of info’, possibly causing state security issues and damage economic stability. In addition to that, secret services AIVD and NCTV, which met with university representatives on January 30, discussed that the initiative did not list any objections to the deal. However, both the education department and the department for economic affairs signaled support, the FD reported, notwithstanding the counsel that it could be an ‘explicit potential breach.’
The education ministry even inveterates the paper it had ‘hidden’ the meeting between the secret services and university administration on its land. The AIVD informed the paper that the meeting was an ‘alerting presentation’ but didn’t comment any further. Self-regulating boards of both universities have rejected all uncertainties about possible Chinese state involvement, saying that “the agreement with Huawei has nothing to do with the system gear which causes public discussion.”
A person representing both universities clarified the paper that a ‘detailed check’ had been carried out to ensure that researchers can distribute their findings self-sufficiently and that delicate information will not be breached. The secret services were looking a bit eased with the guarantees set to avert potential knowledge robbery, he told.
However, the Rathenau Institute, a self-determining government tech recommended body, has told that in AI research the limitations between military and civil technology have become indistinct. It demands a solid government guideline for universities that launching co-operation with ‘a company like Huawei’ is tolerable or not. Last year Oxford university detached its ties with Huawei following public pressure about the collaboration. The Dutch government has also come under substantial outcry, mostly from the US, to keep Huawei out of the Netherland’s 5G network expansion.