Facebook confirms data sharing with Chinese companies

Facebook for SMEFacebook said it has data sharing partnerships with several four Chinese companies including Huawei, which has come under scrutiny from U.S. intelligence agencies on security concerns, Reuters reported.

The social media company said Huawei, Lenovo Group, and smartphone makers OPPO and TCL were among about 60 companies worldwide that received access to some user data after they signed contracts to re-create Facebook-like experiences for their users.

Members of Congress raised concerns after The New York Times reported on the practice on Sunday, saying that data of users’ friends could have been accessed without their explicit consent. Facebook denied that and said the data access was to allow its users to access account features on mobile devices.

Facebook said more than half of the partnerships have already been wound down. It would end the Huawei agreement later this week. It is ending the other three partnerships with Chinese firms as well.

Chinese telecommunications companies have come under scrutiny from U.S. intelligence officials who argue they provide an opportunity for foreign espionage and threaten critical U.S. infrastructure, something the Chinese have consistently denied.

A Facebook executive said the company had carefully managed the access it gave to the Chinese companies.

“Facebook along with many other U.S. tech companies have worked with them and other Chinese manufacturers to integrate their services onto these phones,” Francisco Varela, vice president of mobile partnerships for Facebook, said in a statement. “Facebook’s integrations with Huawei, Lenovo, OPPO and TCL were controlled from the get-go — and we approved the Facebook experiences these companies built.”

The data sharing mentioned in the Times story was used over the last decade by about 60 companies, including Amazon.com, Apple, Blackberry, HTC, Microsoft and Samsung Electronics, Ime Archibong, Facebook vice president of product partnerships, wrote in a blog post on June 3.

The FTC confirmed in March that it was investigating Facebook’s privacy practices.

Facebook allowed Apple and other device makers to have “deep” access to users’ personal data without their consent, according to the Times.

The Times said Facebook allowed companies access to the data of users’ friends without their explicit consent, even after it had declared it would no longer share the information with outsiders.

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