Washington: Facebook has said that it shared user data with 52 companies, including Chinese firms, weeks after it was reported that the social media giant formed data-sharing partnerships with cellphone makers giving them access to details of users and even their friends.
The social media giant’s acknowledgement came as a part of a more than 700-page document dump to the US House Energy and Commerce Committee on Friday evening. The committee released the information publicly on Saturday, The Hill reported.
Facebook on Saturday revealed the partnerships shedding new light on its behaviour related to customer data in the wake of a scandal involving the British political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica where data of up to 87 million people was improperly shared, it said.
The list featured major tech companies like Apple, Amazon, BlackBerry and Samsung. Other firms featured on the list include Alibaba, Qualcomm and Pantech. But the list also includes four Chinese firms that US intelligence has flagged as national security threats — Huawei, Lenovo, Oppo and TCL.
Facebook said it shared data with the companies in an effort to improve its integrations and user experience across platforms and devices, noting that its partnerships were established before smartphones running on Apple’s and Google’s high-powered operating systems were as ubiquitous as they are now, the report said.
“People went online using a wide variety of text-only phones, feature phones, and early smartphones with varying capabilities," Facebook wrote. “In that environment, the demand for internet services like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube outpaced our industry’s ability to build versions of our services that worked on every phone and operating system." Facebook said it has ended 38 of its 52 partnerships and will shut down those remaining by July.
It said in documents that its initial omission of the partnerships resulted because it had shifted its focus to data shared between apps created on its developer platform — the product area which had been implicated by Cambridge Analytica.
Facebook’s sharing of user data with developers appears to have been less controlled than its data sharing with comparatively well-known device-makers and software companies. Still, lawmakers have voiced concern about the company’s data sharing agreements with Chinese firms. The documents offer a follow-up to questions asked by lawmakers during and after the testimony.
“After initial review, I am concerned that Facebook’s responses raise more questions than they answer," House Energy and Commerce’s top Democrat Representative Frank Pallone has said.
Last month, The New York Times reported that Facebook, which was founded in 2004, has reached data-sharing partnerships with at least 60 device makers including Apple, Amazon, BlackBerry, Microsoft and Samsung over the last decade.