Facebook Confirms Data-Sharing Deals with Chinese Tech Firms

06 June, 2018, 05:57 | Author: Leah Owens
  • NY Times Facebook made deals with Apple Samsung and others allowing them access to personal data

Facebook officials said the agreements with the Chinese companies allowed them access similar to what was offered to BlackBerry, which could retrieve detailed information on both device users and all of their friends - including work and education history, relationship status and likes.

In that report, the House Intelligence Committee wrote that "Huawei did not fully cooperate with the investigation and was unwilling to explain its relationship with the Chinese government or Chinese Communist Party, while credible evidence exists that it fails to comply with US laws" and that Huawei's history indicated that it likely had ties to the Chinese military. Facebook denied that and said the data access was to allow its users to access account features on mobile devices. They also asked how the company verifies compliance with the agreements and whether Zuckerberg would like to amend his April testimony to the committee in which he said that users have "complete control" over how their data is shared. It is ending the other three partnerships with Chinese firms as well.

For years, lawmakers in Congress and top U.S. national security officials have raised red flags about the security of Huawei products, fearing that the Chinese government could demand access to communications stored on their devices or servers.

Facebook has been responding to a global backlash about how it handles users' data, from lawmakers and privacy advocates in the USA and Europe.

U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat, says he wants to know how Facebook ensured data was not transferred to Chinese servers.

API, or application program interface, essentially specifies how software components should interact. "Given the interest from Congress, we wanted to make clear that all the information from these integrations with Huawei was stored on the device, not on Huawei's servers".

In January, The Times reported that AT&T had decided not to sell Huawei's newest smartphone, the Mate 10.

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In April, the Federal Communications Commission proposed new rules that would bar purchases by government programs from companies that it says pose a security threat to USA telecoms networks, a move aimed at Huawei and ZTE Corp, China's No. 2 telecommunications equipment maker. The company has denied the charges, but the Pentagon took the rare step this year of banning sales of Huawei smartphones on United States military bases.

ZTE was not among the firms that received access to Facebook data, but it has been the subject of USA national security concerns. Facebook said it was careful about the partnerships, which were created to help smartphone makers build custom versions of Facebook's app.

Senators John Thune and Bill Nelson, the Republican chairman and top Democrat, respectively, on the Senate Commerce Committee asked CEO Zuckerberg in a Tuesday letter for a full list of device makers with which Facebook had agreements.

Facebook gave access to the Chinese device-makers along with other manufacturers - including Amazon, Apple, BlackBerry and Samsung - whose agreements were disclosed by The New York Times on Sunday.

A spokesman for the FTC has declined to indicate if it is investigating Facebook's arrangements with device makers.

"All Facebook's integrations with Huawei, Lenovo, Oppo and TCL were controlled from the get-go - and Facebook approved everything that was built", said Francisco Varela, a Facebook vice president. If users weren't aware of device makers' access, the deals could violate a 2011 U.S. Federal Trade Commission consent decree. "These partners signed agreements that prevented people's Facebook information from being used for any other goal than to recreate Facebook-like experiences".

Facebook said earlier this week that it forged partnerships with around 60 companies back when mobile phones were less powerful and app stores did not yet exist.

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