espite being banned in China, that apparently has not stopped Facebook from sharing user data with various Chinese companies, including one that the US government has always been especially suspicious of.
On Tuesday, the American social media giant confirmed that it has data sharing partnerships with at least four Chinese enterprises: computer maker Lenovo and smartphone makers OPPO, TCL, and Huawei.
Facebook was forced to make this admission following a New York Times report from earlier this week which found that Facebook was providing user data to at least 60 device makers around the world, without first obtaining users’ explicit consent.
The Silicon Valley company says that the deals are not a violation of the promises that it had made to users and lawmakers following this year’s Cambridge Analytica mega-scandal, claiming that the data was only stored on Chinese devices, not on Chinese servers.
According to Francisco Varela, vice-president of mobile partnerships for Facebook, the deals were aimed at allowing Chinese companies to build Facebook “experiences” onto their own devices. “Facebook’s integrations with Huawei, Lenovo, OPPO, and TCL were controlled from the get-go — and we approved the Facebook experiences these companies built,” Varela reassured.
— Sophie Richardson (@SophieHRW) June 6, 2018
However, while Facebook may say that there is absolutely no cause for alarm, some lawmakers are less convinced of that. Senator Mark Warner, a member of the US Senate Intelligence Committee, said that a company like Huawei being given privileged access to Facebook user data is something that raises “legitimate concerns.”
“I look forward to learning more about how Facebook ensured that information about their users was not sent to Chinese servers,” Warner added.
With close ties to the Chinese government, Huawei has long been seen as a national security threat by US intelligence agencies. Significant political pressure has meant that the world’s third-largest smartphone maker has struggled to find any kind of foothold in the US.
Facebook said that it will end its agreement with Huawei later this week, before doing the same with the other three partnerships with Chinese firms.
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) June 6, 2018
Even with Mark Zuckerberg’s best efforts in learning Mandarin and jogging through Tiananmen Square, Facebook remains blocked in China. Despite that fact, nearly 10 percent of the company’s global revenue actually comes from the Middle Kingdom, according to a recent report, making the country Facebook’s second-largest spender on ads, behind only the US.
Meanwhile, this whole saga would appear to undercut an argument that Zuckerberg was apparently prepared to make during his testimony to Congress in April. According to a photo of documents that Zuckerberg had on hand at the time, the Facebook CEO was ready to contend, if asked, that one reason for not breaking up his social media company was that such a move would be a boon to China’s own quickly growing companies.
“Break Up FB? U.S. tech companies key asset for America; break up strengthens Chinese companies,” the document reads.