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Facebook says Chinese phone makers got access to data

By AFP 6 June 2018
Caption
Photo: CEO of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg testifies before the House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on 'Facebook: Transparency and Use of Consumer Data' on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, USA, 11 April 2018. Photo: EPA-EFE/MICHAEL REYNOLDS EPA-EFE/MICHAEL REYNOLDS

Facebook on Tuesday confirmed that a Chinese phone maker deemed a national security threat by the US was among companies given access to data on users.

Huawei was able to access Facebook data to get the leading social network’s applications to perform on  smartphones, according to the California-based company.

“Facebook along with many other US tech companies have worked with them and other Chinese manufacturers to integrate their services onto these phones,” Facebook mobile partnerships leader Francisco Varela said in a released statement.

“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 also had data access deals with Lenovo, OPPO and TCL of China, according to Varela.

“Facebook’s integrations with Huawei, Lenovo, OPPO and TCL were controlled from the get go,” Varela 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 Tuesday in a released statement.

“I look forward to learning more about how Facebook ensured that information about their users was not sent to Chinese servers.”

Facebook 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 standardized the social media experience on smartphones, some 60 device makers like 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 said it 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, according to the social network.

The social media leader said it “disagreed” with the conclusions of a New York Times report that found that the device makers could access information on Facebook users’ friends without their explicit consent.

Facebook enabled device makers to interface with it at a time when it was building its service and they were developing new smartphone and social media technology.

But the report raised concerns that massive databases on users and their friends — including personal data and photographs — could be in the hands of device makers. DM

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