Facebook reveals data-sharing deals with China firms

Facebook is winding up the interface arrangements with device makers as the company's smartphone apps dominate the service. The integration partnership with Huawei will terminate by the end of this week, Facebook said.
Facebook is winding up the interface arrangements with device makers as the company's smartphone apps dominate the service. The integration partnership with Huawei will terminate by the end of this week, Facebook said.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Lenovo, Oppo, TCL and Huawei, deemed a security threat by the US, given access

SAN FRANCISCO • Facebook has data-sharing partnerships with at least four Chinese electronics companies, including a manufacturing giant that has a close relationship with China's government.

The social media company confirmed on Tuesday that Chinese phone maker Huawei, deemed a national security threat by the United States, was among companies given access to data on users.

It said Huawei was able to access Facebook data to get the leading social network's applications to perform on smartphones.

"Facebook along with many other US tech companies have worked with (Huawei) and other Chinese manufacturers to integrate their services onto these phones," Facebook mobile partnerships leader Francisco Varela said in a statement.

"Given the interest from Congress, we wanted to make it clear that all the information from these integrations with Huawei was stored on the device, not on Huawei's servers."

There were also data-access deals with other firms from China, according to Mr Varela. "Facebook's integrations with Huawei, Lenovo, Oppo and TCL were controlled from the get go," he said.

Huawei has long disputed any links to the Chinese government, while noting that its infrastructure and computing products are used in 170 countries.

"Concerns about Huawei aren't new," US Senator Mark Warner, vice-chairman of the senate select committee on intelligence, said on Tuesday. "I look forward to learning more about how Facebook ensured that information about their users was not sent to Chinese servers."

Contracts with phone makers placed tight limits on what could be done with data, and "approved experiences" were reviewed by engineers and managers before being deployed, according to Facebook, who also said that it does not know of any privacy abuse by cellphone makers who, years ago, were able to gain access to personal data on users and their friends.

Before now-ubiquitous apps standardised the social media experience on smartphones, some 60 device makers such as Amazon, Apple, Blackberry, HTC, Microsoft and Samsung worked with Facebook to adapt interfaces for the Facebook website to their own phones, the company said.

Facebook is winding up the interface arrangements with device makers as the company's smartphone apps dominate the service. The integration partnership with Huawei will terminate by the end of this week, Facebook said.

The social media leader said it "disagreed" with the conclusions of a New York Times report which found that the device makers could access information on Facebook users' friends without their explicit consent. But the report raised concerns that massive databases on users and their friends - including personal data and photos - could be in the hands of device makers.

Huawei maintains that its products "meet the highest standards of security, privacy and engineering in every country we operate", and that "no government has ever asked us to compromise the security or integrity of any of our networks or devices".

In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said she would not comment on cooperation between companies and knew nothing 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," she added.

In April, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg apologised in Congress over the Cambridge Analytica fiasco, amid rising calls for more regulation of the company.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 07, 2018, with the headline 'Facebook reveals data-sharing deals with China firms'. Print Edition | Subscribe