20 June 2018

Facebook confirms data-sharing agreements with Chinese firms

KONFRONTASI - Facebook, the world's largest social media company, has confirmed that at least four Chinese firms have been granted limited access by the social media company to Facebook members’ data.

The Chinese firms, namely, Huawei, Lenovo, OPPO and TCL are among dozens of other companies worldwide that have access to some of Facebook users’ data, Facebook announced on Tuesday.

The announcement came after the New York Times reported on Sunday that Facebook had signed data-sharing agreements with at least 60 device-making companies worldwide, allowing them to have access to Facebook users' data without obtaining explicit consent from the Facebook members.

After the New York Times report, members of the US Congress raised concerns about these agreements.

US Senator Mark Warner, vice chairman of the Intelligence Committee, who asked Facebook if Huawei was among the companies that received user data, said in a statement that the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee had raised concerns about Huawei that dated back to 2012.

"The news that Facebook provided privileged access to Facebook's API 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," Warner said.

The API, or Application Program Interface, determines the interaction between software components.

A Facebook executive responded to Congress, saying the company controlled the accessibility limits given to the Chinese firms.

"Facebook's integrations with Huawei, Lenovo, OPPO and TCL were controlled from the get-go," Francisco Varela, vice president of mobile partnerships for Facebook, said in a statement.

Facebook, which was already under  scrutiny over its involvement in a scandal involving selling members' information to consultancy firm Cambridge Analytica, said all the data collected remained on users' phones not servers.

Varela said that "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."

Facebook added that it would end the Huawei agreement later this week and end the other three partnerships with Chinese firms as well.

In response to the news, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said she was not aware of the situation.

"But we hope that the US side can provide a fair, transparent, open and friendly environment for Chinese companies' investment and operational activities," Hua told reporters.

Other companies that were given access to users' data included Amazon, Apple, Blackberry, HTC, Microsoft and Samsung, among others.[ptv]

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