COMMENT: Some years ago the Government's Ultra-Fast Broadband got underway and Huawei rocked up in Auckland with a huge (for New Zealand) technology display.
The giant Chinese telco vendor was angling for UFB contracts and showed off an impressive array of equipment.
Among those was the ability to manage traffic on large networks using deep packet inspection (DPI).
As the name implies, this technology is able to fully analyse the data packets you and I transmit over our broadband connections, including the payloads.
DPI requires serious processing power to keep up with lots of fast data streams. Because of that, the technology was at the time expensive and usually deployed at the edges of corporate networks.
Doing DPI on a nationwide broadband access network carried a big wow-factor but when you thought about the privacy implications it seemed creepy beyond words.
Here was a company from a repressive communist nation touting technology that could be used for good, but could also capture, analyse and map down to an individual level what a country's connected population were up to on the internet.
It was a real eye-opener as to what the future would hold.
Fast forward to 2018, and we are developing network management with artificial intelligence that machine learns from large data streams passed through very powerful systems.
Add DPI and software-defined networking and you can build real-time automated systems that are instantly reconfigurable to watch, reroute and manipulate data streams.
We're starting to understand what it means to have that level of power through intelligent networks, and popular pressure is being applied to Western companies to use it with at least some degree of ethics and morals.
How can we do that with companies from a repressive, undemocratic nation that uses the same tech as above to wind back the freedom of expression the internet and mobility has brought to people, both nationally and overseas?
That issue has been brewing for the past decade, and it has become worse thanks to communist China clamping down hard on human rights.
There is a level of hypocrisy here as Western countries care more about cheap manufacturing of tech products at an enormous scale and outsourcing the environmental destruction which that brings than individual liberties in China.
That said, it's hard to feel sympathy for the likes of Huawei when they cop bans due to national security concerns as they won't or can't distance themselves from official China.
Being the cheapest won't be a competitive advantage in markets that value trust in and transparency for tech and Huawei's had plenty of time to figure that out.