Facebook Inc. revealed on Tuesday that it has data sharing agreements with at least four Chinese cell phone manufacturers including third biggest smartphone maker Huawei Technologies Co Ltd, which has been under investigation from United States intelligence agencies over security concerns.
Huawei, Lenovo Group, OPPO and TCL Corp. were among 60 companies that received access to users’ information following their agreements with Facebook to re-create like experiences for its users.
Congress members raised concerns after a report published by The New York Times that disclosed the data of users’ friends was also accessible to those companies without their explicit consent. However, Facebook argued that the data access was to enable its users to access account features on their phones.
The social network giant said that over half of those contracts have already been expired. The company plans to end the agreement with Huawei later this week. It also plans to end the similar agreements with the other three Chinese firms soon.
U.S. intelligence agencies have been closely monitoring Chinese telecommunications firms, which they believe are providing an opportunity for foreign spying and threatening important U.S. infrastructure. However, Chinese have frequently denied those claims.
A senior United States Senator, Mark Warner said the news that Facebook offered privileged access to its API to Chinese cell phone makers, such as Huawei, raises serious concerns. Warner added that he looks forward to finding out more about how the company ensured that its users’ information was not sent to Chinese servers.
Vice president of mobile partnerships at Facebook, Francisco Varela said the company had vigilantly managed the access it provided to the Chinese companies. All the data from these integrations with Huawei was saved on the device, and not on Huawei’s servers, Varela added while referring to the concerns raised by the Congress.