House panel calls for Facebook transparency following new revelations

House panel calls for Facebook transparency following new revelations
© Getty Images

The top members of a House panel are urging Facebook to be more forthcoming following revelations about the company’s data-sharing agreements with device-makers, including Chinese firms facing scrutiny in the U.S. over national security concerns.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenCBO: Pelosi bill to lower drug prices saves Medicare 5 billion Trump official declines to testify on trade protections for tech platforms House panel asks Trump trade official to testify on legal protections for tech platforms MORE (R-Ore.) released a statement with Rep. Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneCBO: Pelosi bill to lower drug prices saves Medicare 5 billion Trump official declines to testify on trade protections for tech platforms Hillicon Valley: New York AG meets with feds over Facebook probe | Trump trade official asked to testify on protections for tech giants | PayPal drops out of Libra cryptocurrency project MORE (D-N.J.), the panel’s ranking member, saying that details about the partnership should have been revealed when they heard testimony from Facebook CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergHillicon Valley: Warren takes on Facebook over political ads | Zuckerberg defends meetings with conservatives | Civil liberties groups sound alarm over online extremism bill Zuckerberg defends meetings with conservative politicians, pundits Warren targets Facebook with ad claiming Zuckerberg supports Trump MORE in April.

“Clearly, the company’s partnerships with Chinese technology companies and others should have been disclosed before Congress and the American people,” they said in the statement. “The spirit of our questions about third-party access to user data should not have required technical knowledge of the legal agreements Facebook has with device manufacturers to get clear answers for the public.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Facebook did not immediately respond when asked for comment.

The New York Times reported earlier this week that Facebook’s partnerships with device-makers involved sharing more data than was previously disclosed. On Tuesday, the social network told the Times that the Chinese telecom firm Huawei was among the dozens of companies that had been under a data-sharing agreement.

The intelligence community has long considered Huawei a national security threat due to its ties to Beijing and the firm has been mostly shut out of the U.S. since a 2012 congressional report warned that its hardware could be used to conduct surveillance on Americans.

Both Huawei and Facebook have said that the partnership did not involve collecting data on users and that any information that was used didn’t make it to the Chinese company’s servers.

But it remains to be seen whether lawmakers, who have been issuing warnings about firms like Huawei and ZTE for years, will be reassured by Facebook’s explanation.

“As the committee continues to examine these issues closely with the ongoing audit of Facebook data practices, and awaits response to our written questions from the hearing, we strongly encourage full transparency from Facebook and the entire tech community,” Walden and Pallone said Wednesday.