Friday, 17 August, 2018

Facebook Earns US Lawmakers' Rebuke Over Data-Sharing Pacts With Chinese Firms

Zuckerberg's appearance will be livestreamed to the public after angry EU lawmakers objected to initial plans to host the hearing behind closed doors Former Director FTC Will Become More Inclined to Impose Penalties on Facebook AFP 5 Jun 2018
Oscar Goodwin | 07 June, 2018, 15:37

The top Republican and Democrat on the US House Energy and Commerce Committee said Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg should have disclosed those data-sharing partnerships when he testified before Congress in April. "We are not aware of any abuse by these companies".

Facebook said in a statement Wednesday that it plans to respond to questions from the Senate by the end of the week.

Huawei, a company flagged by U.S. intelligence officials as a national security threat and barred on security grounds from involvement in Australia's National Broadband Network, was the latest device maker at the center of a fresh wave of allegations over Facebook's handling of private data. Zuckerberg testified for 10 hours over two days in hearings triggered by revelations that a British firm with ties to President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign harvested information from as many as 87 million Facebook users without their knowledge.

First reported Sunday by The New York Times, these dodgy practices quickly piqued the interest of the USA government.

After publishing the investigation, Craig Federighi, Software Business VP at Apple, effectively confirmed the feature at Cupertino and said the company will ban the usage of Facebook Like buttons by third-party apps across all Apple platforms. "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's servers".

"Facebook's integrations with Huawei, Lenovo, OPPO, and TCL were controlled from the get-go", he continued. Facebook mentioned Huawei as one of its partners in a 2012 blog post.

Labor's Jenny McAllister says the data deal raises some very significant issues about how Facebook operates, saying the company had been "quite negligent" in describing to consumers what was happening to their data.

The bipartisan criticism reflected rising frustration in Congress about how Facebook protects the privacy of the more than 2 billion people who use its services worldwide.

Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said on Tuesday that he saw a "a serious danger" that Facebook shared user information with Chinese device makers.

Facebook is under scrutiny once again after media reports that it shared user data with about 60 device manufacturers around the world, including four Chinese firms.

A Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman had no comment on the companies' agreements. The company was given a June 18 deadline to respond.

In a bid to contain this latest crisis Facebook is not only insisting that none of its user data was transferred from phones to the servers of the companies in question, but that it's also pulling the plug on the Huawei arrangement this week.

"Facebook, along with many other USA tech companies, [has] worked with them and other Chinese manufacturers to integrate their services onto these phones", Francisco Varela, vice president of mobile partnerships for Facebook, said in a statement.

According to the Times, the partnership gave companies access to the personal data of device users and their Facebook friends - such as user ID, birthday, work and education history, relationship status, religion, political leaning and upcoming events. Several aides said lawmakers were waiting for Facebook's answers before deciding on whether to hold additional hearings.

Facebook said more than half of the data sharing partnerships have already been wound down.

Huawei, China's largest maker of telecommunications equipment, was founded in 1988 by former Chinese army officer Ren Zhengfei.

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