By Tenzin Dharpo
DHARAMSHALA, June 7: Leading social media giant Facebook has admitted to selling privileged user information to around 60 companies worldwide including at least four Chinese tech companies. The US company on Tuesday said that it has come under security concerns from US Intelligence agencies.
The social media company said Huawei Technologies Co Ltd., the largest smart phone maker in the world, computer maker Lenovo Group and smartphone makers OPPO and TCL Corp were among about 60 companies worldwide that received access to some user data contractually.
Facebook made the disclosure after members of the US Congress questioned the social media company after The New York Times
reported on the development on Sunday, saying that data of users’ friends could have been accessed without their consent.
US Senator Mark Warner, vice chairman of the Intelligence Committee told Reuters, “The news that Facebook provided privileged access to Facebook’s API (Application Program 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.”
In response, Facebook’s vice president of mobile partnerships, Francisco Varela said in a statement, “Facebook along with many other U.S. tech companies have worked with them and other Chinese manufacturers to integrate their services onto these phones. Facebook’s integrations with Huawei, Lenovo, OPPO and TCL were controlled from the get-go — and we approved the Facebook experiences these companies built.”
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying refused to comment specifically on the issue apart from saying, “we hope that the U.S. side can provide a fair, transparent, open and friendly environment for Chinese companies’ investment and operational activities.”
Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg is yet to release any statement on the issue despite being called out by Senators John Thune and Bill Nelson.
Zuckerberg earlier sat before a Congressional committee after the company came under fire for failing to protect the data of some 87 million users that was shared with political data firm Cambridge Analytica.
Facebook has said that it would end the Huawei agreement later this week and also of other three partnerships with Chinese firms as well.