Working together for a safe 5G future

The new connectivity of 5G wireless technology offers boundless opportunity, but in the wrong hands, it also poses a threat.

“The Chinese government has built an advanced authoritarian state by twisting technology to put censorship over free expression and citizen control over empowerment,” Michael Kratsios, the chief technology officer of the United States, told the 2019 Web Summit in Lisbon, Portugal. “The Chinese Communist Party uses technology to control and imprison dissidents, activists and minorities.”

That is why countries around the world need to come together to make sure emerging technology like 5G is developed “in a way that promotes public trust, protects civil liberties and respects the privacy and dignity of every individual,” said Kratsios, who serves as one of the administration’s technology advisers.

Portrait photo of Michael Kratsios (White House)
Michael Kratsios (White House)

5G will underpin everything from communications systems to militaries, he said, “but if we don’t act now, Chinese influence and control of technology will not only undermine the freedoms of their own citizens, but all citizens of the world.”

Part of the concern is that Chinese companies are never truly independent from the Chinese Communist Party. Chinese law requires companies to provide information to Chinese intelligence agencies, and China’s top-down authoritarian system means that there is no way to challenge the government.

Contrast that with the U.S. system, which Kratsios explained is “centered on a light-touch regulatory approach that advances economic freedom and a commitment to the rule of law and human dignity.”

Kratsios urged countries at the 2019 Web Summit to forge a technological future that upholds individual rights and values.

“Our future depends upon America and Europe working together,” he said. The allies have to “embrace innovation and defend our free system against our adversaries that seek to undermine our shared values,” Kratsios said.

“If we want to safeguard our freedom, we must work together,” he said.