New Facebook Scandal: User Data Shared With Chinese Smartphone Makers

Technology > Security

Lenovo's headquarters near Xibeiwang Station, Beijing, China. / Photo by: N509FZ via Wikimedia Commons


Facebook has social data sharing partnerships with four Chinese cell phone manufacturers, with some of the agreements dating as far back as 2010. The four Chinese companies are Lenovo, TCL, Oppo, and Huawei, the last one of which was tagged by US intelligence authorities as a national security threat because of its close ties with the Chinese government, according to Michael LaForgia and Gabriel J.X. Dance, reporting for The New York Times. 

The partnerships are still in effect but Facebook said it would terminate its relationship with Huawei by the end of the first week of June 2018. The data sharing pacts were part of the social network’s efforts to attract more cellphone users to its website before it rolled out stand-alone apps for cellphones. Such agreements, which Facebook also struck with Amazon, Apple, BlackBerry and Samsung, allowed it to incorporate cellphone features, such as address books, “like” buttons, and status updates.  

The social media giant clarified that the agreements with the Chinese companies were similar to the one it made with BlackBerry. The deal allowed the now-defunct Canadian cellphone manufacturer to access detailed information on both device users and all of their friends, such as work and education history, relationship status, and likes.

On the other hand, Huawei said it used the Facebook data to feed a social phone app that allowed users to access messages and social media accounts in one place. Facebook also said the data it shared with Huawei stayed on users’ phones and not on Huawei’s servers.

South Dakota Republican Senator John Thune, who heads the US Senate Commerce Committee, is urging Facebook to provide the US Congress with details about its data sharing partnerships. Thune said its high time that Facebook should learn that meaningful transparency is a high standard to meet.