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Did Facebook share too much with Huawei?

June 6, 2018

Facebook has acknowledged it has shared user data with several Chinese smartphone makers. Among the recipients was Huawei, which had been flagged by US intelligence officials as a national security threat.

Facebook logo on a smartphone screen
Image: Imago/Hollandse Hoogte

Chinese firms Huawei, Lenovo, Oppo and TCL were among numerous handset makers that were given access to Facebook data in what the US company said was "a controlled operation."

The social media giant's vice president of mobile partnerships, Francisco Varela, confirmed a report in The New York Times Tuesday that Facebook had given Chinese device makers deep access to the data of users' friends without their explicit consent.

The recipients of the data included Chinese firms like Huawei that had been banned by some US government agencies due to security concerns.

No cause for alarm?

Facebook said it would stop its partnership with Huawei by the end of the week. The top Democrat on the US Senate Intelligence Committee, Mark Warner, said the new revelations raised legitimate concerns and wanted to know how Facebook ensured data was not transferred to Chinese servers.

"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 servers," Facebook's Francisco Varela said in a statement.

For years, Huawei and its Shenzhen-based rival ZTE have been the subject of security misgivings in the US, but they have come under particular scrutiny since the start of the Trump administration.

hg/jd (AFP, AP)