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 WarnerTop Democrat demands answers from CBP on security of biometric data 2020 Democrats raise alarm about China's intellectual property theft State probes of Google, Facebook to test century-old antitrust laws MORE (D-Va.) said earlier this month.

Facebook's Cambridge Analytica scandal drew outcry from several lawmakers, ultimately culminating in CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergOvernight Health Care: Juul's lobbying efforts fall short as Trump moves to ban flavored e-cigarettes | Facebook removes fact check from anti-abortion video after criticism | Poll: Most Democrats want presidential candidate who would build on ObamaCare Hillicon Valley: Google to promote original reporting | Senators demand answers from Amazon on worker treatment | Lawmakers weigh response to ransomware attacks Facebook removes fact check from anti-abortion video after criticism 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 PalloneHotel industry mounts attack on Airbnb with House bill Push on 'surprise' medical bills hits new roadblocks Overnight Health Care: Insurance lobby chief calls Biden, Sanders health plans 'similarly bad' | Trump officials appeal drug price disclosure ruling | Study finds 1 in 7 people ration diabetes medicine due to cost MORE (N.J.),  said Saturday.