Facebook reveals data-sharing partnerships, ties to Chinese firms in 700-page document dump

Facebook reveals data-sharing partnerships, ties to Chinese firms in 700-page document dump
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Facebook revealed to Congress late Friday that it shared user data with 52 hardware and software-making companies, including some Chinese firms.

The new acknowledgement came as part of a more than 700-page document dump to the House Energy and Commerce Committee late Friday evening. The committee released the information publicly on Saturday.

Some companies on the list of 52 firms had previously been reported by The New York Times, including device-makers, telecommunications companies and software firms.

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 U.S. intelligence has flagged as national security threats — Huawei, Lenovo, Oppo and TCL.

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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.  

“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.

The tech company has been under scrutiny for its user data-sharing practices since the revelation earlier this year that Cambridge Analytica improperly harvested data from 87 million of its users.

Facebook said in documents that its initial omission of the partnerships was 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 news that Facebook provided privileged access to Facebook’s [application programming interface] to Chinese device makers like Huawei and TCL raises legitimate concerns, and I look forward to learning more about how Facebook ensured that information about their users was not sent to Chinese servers,” Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerSenate panel advances Trump IRS nominee Bipartisan bill would bring needed funds to deteriorating National Park Service infrastructure Senate Dems press for info on any deals from Trump-Putin meeting MORE (D-Va.) said earlier this month.

Facebook's Cambridge Analytica scandal drew outcry from several lawmakers, ultimately culminating in CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergHillicon Valley: Officials pressed on Russian interference at security forum | FCC accuses Sinclair of deception | Microsoft reveals Russia tried to hack three 2018 candidates | Trump backs Google in fight with EU | Comcast gives up on Fox bid Facebook's Zuckerberg congratulated Trump after 2016 election: report Facebook to start removing misleading posts that incite violence MORE delivering a high-profile testimony in a lengthy Senate hearing.

The more than 700 pages of 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, Rep. Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneOvernight Health Care: Trump officials explore importing prescription drugs | Key ObamaCare, drug pricing regs under review | GOP looks to blunt attacks on rising premiums | Merck to lower some drug prices House Dems want answers on cuts to ObamaCare outreach groups Top Dems urge Trump officials to reverse suspension of ObamaCare payments MORE (N.J.),  said Saturday.