US extorts data from chip-related companies amid concerns

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Several chip-related companies have responded to an earlier request by the United States to supply confidential supply chain information in the name of better understanding the global chip shortage as the deadline expired on Monday.

On Sept. 23, the U.S. Department of Commerce asked global semiconductor manufacturers and automakers to "voluntarily" fill out a questionnaire about the supply chain in regard to their chip inventory, sales, orders, customers' information and more, and set a Nov. 8 deadline.

The request, though declared as "voluntary," seemed more of an order than a choice, for whoever turned against it could be in for a backlash, as U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said in an interview with Reuters in September, "we have other tools in our toolbox that require them to give us data. I hope we don't get there. But if we have to, we will."

South Korean firms Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix, the world's two biggest makers of memory chips, are among the companies which have responded to the request. The two industry leaders have disclosed their semiconductor data ahead of the deadline but have minimized the disclosure of such sensitive information as customer data and inventory, according to local media.

The U.S. information request, described by its Commerce Department as an effort to identify "data gaps and bottlenecks in the supply chain, and potential inconsistent demand signals," has stoked industry concern over trade secrets and aroused dissatisfaction.

"The scope of the requested data is vast and a number of operational secrets are included, which is a big concern in South Korea," South Korea's trade ministry said in a statement on Oct. 6.

On Oct. 13, South Korean Ambassador to the United States Lee Soo-hyuck said that South Korean companies will not readily provide highly confidential information, adding that the move will put pressure on companies in the chip industry, and Samsung would be reluctant to comply with the U.S. request.

South Korean Trade Minister Yeo Han-koo also relayed the conglomerate's concern during talks with U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai on the sidelines of a meeting of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), the world's largest contract chipmaker and a major Apple Inc. supplier, has repeatedly said that it will not leak any sensitive company information.

Having supplied data to Washington, TSMC said on Monday that no detailed information on clients has been disclosed.

Samsung reportedly omitted sensitive information including client information and inventories, labeling them as "confidential" and not open to the public.

As of Monday, 23 entities, including TSMC, Micron Technology, Western Digital, United Microelectronics Corporation, and Shinko Electric Industries, had submitted supply chain-related information, according to a list of submissions filed with

"Not that long ago, America led the world in making leading-edge semiconductor chips. Today we produce 0 percent of those chips in America -- 0 percent. That's a national security risk and an economic security risk," Raimondo was quoted by The Hill as saying.

On June 8, 2021, U.S. Senate approved 52 billion U.S. dollars for the CHIPS for America Act, dedicated to supporting the U.S. semiconductor industry over the next decade.

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