Huawei’s alleged ties to the Chinese government, which the US and its allies fear can be used to spy on western countries, is what got Huawei into all these problems with the Trump administration. Well, that and the trade war with China, of course. Not only does Huawei provide equipment that’s used to build the backbone of cellular networks in several markets, but it also sells hundreds of millions of smartphones around the world. Huawei has been fighting these trust issues for years now, trying to put everyone’s mind at ease with the help of its business partners, including Google, Microsoft, and mobile operators. But all this back and forth can easily make users wonder whether they’re really safe using Huawei devices.
This brings us to Huawei’s most recent PR blunder, which is certainly not going to help the company build up any trust with users. Huawei was just caught displaying ads on smartphones, which is one of the most annoying things that can happen on mobile devices.
Huawei smartphone users in several countries, including Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, South Africa, and the UK have posted on social media showing screenshots of the ads, Android Police reports.
All of these images show the same Booking.com logo placed on top of a dynamic lock screen image. That’s an important detail because it’s worth noting that Huawei isn’t doing anything to your device to place those ads there. It’s just taking advantage of the magazine background images feature to show these ads, a feature that you can disable on your phone.
However, the notion that Huawei is putting something on your phone that shouldn’t be there, without context or consent, can be used to hurt the company further. If Huawei is willing to do that, then who’s to say it can’t also obtain information from your device? Again, nothing nefarious happened in this case, aside from the fact that Huawei didn’t ask for permission to show these ads. But it’s certainly not helping Huawei’s cause.
Huawei isn’t the only company to push ads or surveys on its customers, but that doesn’t make it any better, especially at a time when it’s facing intense scrutiny from the US and other countries.
The US ban will hurt Huawei’s bottom line this year, but placing these unsolicited ads on phones is probably not worth all the extra backlash. As for Booking.com, the company scored the best promotion it could have dreamed of. These screenshots featuring its logo will appear on almost every tech blog and news site covering Huawei, giving the travel site a lot more exposure than it thought it would get from this campaign.