Facebook has informed that it had data sharing agreements with four Chinese consumer makers including Huawei Technologies Co. that has sparked privacy concerns yet again where the social media company has repeatedly failed to explain how personal information flows beyond Facebook.
The agreements were signed back in 2010 and the Huawei deal would end by a weekend, said Facebook. Other companies that had collaboration with Facebook over data sharing include Lenovo, Oppo and TCL.
The agreement with Chinese companies allowed them to retrieve detailed information on both device users as well as that of friends-including religious and political leanings, education, work and relationship status, stated The New York Times yesterday.
A leading financial daily said in its report,
The deals were part of an effort to push more mobile users onto the social network starting in 2007 before stand-alone Facebook apps worked well on phones. The agreements allowed device makers to offer some Facebook features, such as address books, ‘like’ buttons and status updates.
Meanwhile, many senior US lawmakers have expressed concern over such an agreement by Facebook with Chinese companies.
Data Sharing with Chinese phone makers: A Legitimate Concern
Senator Mark Warner, Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence said,
The news that Facebook provided privileged access to Facebook’s API (Application Programming Interface) to Chinese device makers like Huawei and TCL raises legitimate concerns, and I look forward to learning more about how Facebook ensured that information about their users was not sent to Chinese servers.
Moreover, the New York Times on Sunday has reported that the social media platform has allowed over 60 phone and device manufacturers to access vast amounts of information on users and their friends. It’s not clear yet whether any of the partners abused the data or transferred it to unauthorized parties.
The disclosure has fueled the public distrust and rage over the social network whose core app has more than 2 billion users worldwide. The confirmation that Chinese device makers, especially Huawei, were among the manufacturers with access to user data raised even more questions among U.S. lawmakers about how the information was stored and used.
Many of the US lawmakers who were sceptical of Facebook’s response to earlier inquiries into Cambridge Analytica scandal have demanded more accountability reporting data lapse.
Senators John Thune and Bill Nelson, the Republican chairman and top Democrat have sent a letter to Facebook founder Zuckerberg seeking explanations on for a full list of device makers with which Facebook had agreements.
The letter has also raised questions on how 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.