Facebook confirms data-sharing relationships with Chinese companies

Facebook has confirmed the legitimacy of recent reports highlighting the company’s data-sharing relationships with several Chinese tech firms, some of which have since been restricted in the US on security grounds

The revelation that Facebook has been sharing data with Chinese companies puts another speed bump in the company's recovery from the Cambridge Analytica scandal

On June 5, Facebook confirmed it had data-sharing arrangements in place with several Chinese companies, with some dating back as far as 2007. The company’s admission comes just two days after The New York Times first revealed the relationships.

According to The New York Times, the agreements grant Chinese companies access to user data, ostensibly to help them build apps that provide “Facebook-like” experiences, such as status updates and ‘like’ buttons. The companies in question include smartphone makers Huawei and OPPO, as well as PC maker Lenovo and electronics company TCL.

Through the agreements, these companies – along with many other Western companies – were allowed access to detailed user data, such as religious and political affiliation, relationship status and work history.

The agreements grant Chinese companies access to Facebook user data, ostensibly to help them build apps that provide “Facebook-like” experiences

“Facebook, along with many other US tech companies, [has] worked with [Huawei] and other Chinese manufacturers to integrate their services onto these phones,” said Facebook’s Vice President of Mobile Partnerships, Francisco Varela, in a statement to The Hill.

“Facebook’s integrations with Huawei, Lenovo, OPPO and TCL were controlled from the get go – and we approved the Facebook experiences these companies built.”

The data-sharing agreement has drawn the attention of Congress and, most notably, Mark Warner, the Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. In a post to his Twitter page, Warner said Facebook needed to provide “the whole story, now, not six months from now”.

“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,” Varela said.

In April, the US Federal Communications Commission voted unanimously to ban federal subsidies from being used to buy equipment from Huawei and fellow Chinese phone company ZTE on national security grounds.

The latest revelation has put another speed bump in Facebook’s recovery from its massive data scandal earlier this year, when it was revealed the data of more than 80 million Facebook users had been utilised by a third-party consulting firm, Cambridge Analytica. Facebook’s stock has, however, made a full recovery from the scandal.