WASHINGTON – On Tuesday, Facebook Inc. submitted that they have data sharing partnerships with four Chinese companies also including Huawei, the third largest smartphone maker, which has come under scrutiny from U.S. intelligence agencies on security concerns.
Members of Congress member raised question after The New York Times reported on the practice, saying that data of users’ friends can be accessed without their explicit consent. Facebook objected it and said that the data access was only to allow its users to access account features on mobile devices.
Half of the partnerships have been ended up, added Facebook. It said that it would end the Huawei agreement since this week, also with an end of the other three partnerships with Chinese firms.
Chinese telecommunications companies have come under scrutiny from U.S. intelligence officials, who argued that they had provided an opportunity for foreign espionage and threaten critical U.S. infrastructure, something for which Chinese have consistently neglected.
Vice chairman of the Intelligence Committee, Senator Mark Warner, concluded in a statement that the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee asked Facebook if Huawei was also among the companies that received user data.
Warner said, “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”.
API, or application programme interface, essentially specifies how software components should interact.
A Facebook executive said the company had carefully managed the access it gave to the Chinese companies.
Francisco Varela, vice president of mobile partnerships for Facebook, commented that “Facebook along with many other U.S. tech companies have worked with them and other Chinese manufacturers to integrate their services onto these phones,” he also added, “Facebook’s integrations with Huawei, Lenovo, OPPO, and TCL were controlled from the get-go — and we approved the Facebook experiences these companies built.”
Varela replied with the comment, “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.”