Facebook has confirmed it has data-sharing partnerships with at least four Chinese companies, including Huawei, which has come under scrutiny from US intelligence agencies on security concerns.
The social media company said Huawei, the world’s third largest smartphone maker, computer maker Lenovo Group, and smartphone makers OPPO and TCL Corp were among about 60 companies worldwide that received access to some user data after they signed contracts to re-create Facebook-like experiences for their users.
Members of the US Congress raised concerns after The New York Times reported on the practice on Sunday, saying that data of users’ friends could have been accessed without their explicit consent.
Facebook denied that and said the data access was to allow its users to access account features on mobile devices.
More than half of the partnerships have already been wound down, Facebook said. It would end the Huawei agreement later this week, it said on Tuesday, and is ending the other three partnerships with Chinese firms as well.
Chinese telecommunications companies have come under scrutiny from US intelligence officials, who argue they provide an opportunity for foreign espionage and threaten critical US infrastructure, something the Chinese have consistently denied.
Senator Mark Warner, vice chairman of the Intelligence Committee, who asked Facebook if Huawei was among the companies that received user data, said in a statement that the US House of Representatives Intelligence Committee had raised concerns about Huawei dating back to 2012.
A Facebook executive said the company had carefully managed the access it gave to the Chinese companies.
In April, the US Federal Communications Commission proposed new rules that would bar purchases by government programs from companies that it says pose a security threat to US telecoms networks, a move aimed at Huawei and ZTE, China’s No.2 telecommunications equipment maker.
In May, the Pentagon ordered shops on US military bases to stop selling Huawei and ZTE phones, citing potential security risks.
The data sharing mentioned in the Times story was used in the past decade by about 60 companies, including Amazon.com, Apple, Blackberry, HTC, Microsoft and Samsung, Facebook vice president of product partnerships, Ime Archibong, wrote in a blog post on June 3.