Facebook Admits It Whored User Data To Huawei And Other Chinese Firms
The intricacies of Facebook's full data collection and sharing policies are not really known outside of the social network, but it is safe to assume that your information changes hands. Facebook does not hide this tidbit, even if the full scope is not known. What is known, however, is that Facebook has data sharing deals with four Chinese companies, perhaps more, including Huawei, Lenovo, Oppo, and TCL.
These are not small firms by any means. Huawei is the world's third biggest smartphone player, while Lenovo often jostles with Hewlett-Packard for the top spot in computer shipments and market share. Oppo, meanwhile, is a well known smartphone maker, and so is TCL, which also makes reasonably priced big screen televisions that are some of the first to show up when shopping for TVs on Amazon.
The four Chinese firms are among around 60 companies around the world that have partnered with Facebook and inked deals to receive some user data for creating Facebook-like experiences for their own customers. Facebook says that more than half of the partnerships have already cooled, and that it will terminate its agreement with Huawei later this week. It also plans to end partnerships with Lenovo, Oppo, and TCL.
That's good news going forward, though from a privacy perspective, it's concerning that they were formed in the first place, without users explicitly consenting to them. Sure, permission is probably buried in fine print somewhere, but it's not as if Facebook is asking users if they are okay with the social network sharing their data with these specific companies.
According to Facebook, the social network was very careful with its data sharing agreements.
"Facebook along with many other US tech companies have 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. "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 also clarified that information shared as part of these integrated experiences were never stored on Huawei's servers, only on the user's device.
This is the sort of thing that raises eyebrows from various groups, including US Congress, privacy groups, and of course Facebook's users. The company is under a microscope at the moment after a history of privacy gaffes, the latest of which centers around the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
The transparency in the after math of that scandal is nice and all, but what else will we discover about Facebook's data collection and sharing activities? Time will tell.