Facebook has confirmed that it had data-sharing deals in place with various Chinese firms, including Huawei, Oppo, Lenovo and TCL.
For US-based Facebook, the deal with Huawei should seem particularly worrying because the company has been accused of having close ties with the Chinese government. The US govt had raised concerns that the Chinese company could provide hidden backdoors to US services. Huawei has, of course, refuted all such claims.
According to a report in Bloomberg, Facebook defended the deals with a statement that the partnerships were only designed to provide Facebook services on the devices. Huawei being the third-largest smartphone maker at the time made them an obvious choice for any global company.
Facebook went on to add that all data that was shared was only stored on device and not sent to Huawei servers.
A New York Times report on the 3 June had stated that Facebook had data-sharing agreements with around 60 device manufacturers. Their investigation had revealed that these device makers could access data of users and their friends without anyone’s consent.
While Facebook issued a statement saying that they “disagreed” with the report and that they did not believe the data had been misused.
As we pointed out earlier, Facebook has provided no evidence to backup their claim that the data wasn’t misused, nor is it likely that they are in a position to do so.
Interestingly, while Facebook themselves classified many of the agreements as now redundant, given the popularity of iOS and Android, they did not even start looking at the agreements till April, when news of the Cambridge-Analytica scandal broke out.
So far, Facebook claims to have wound up 22 of the 60 or so agreements.
Apple was one of the device manufacturers included in the list, but in a recent interview at WWDC, Apple CEO Tim Cook clarified that Apple’s agreements with Facebook did not include any request for user data. If Facebook was so concerned about privacy, one has to wonder why other device makers were given the option to begin with.
The NYT report had pointed out that device makers could access information on a user’s religious preferences, political leanings and upcoming events.
Regardless of whether the data-sharing agreements resulted in misuse, the fact remains that Facebook is rapidly losing credibility and trust, and it’s done nothing to prove otherwise.