On Tuesday morning, US Senator Mark Warner demanded to know if Facebook had been sharing users' personal data with Chinese telephone companies that some perceive as a national security risk, specifically Huawei and ZTE. The social network has now responded affirmatively, at least with respect to Huawei, exacerbating the already high tension between Facebook and US lawmakers.
However, Facebook insists that the data in question never left people's phones, and was not stored in Chinese servers. He also said he will close his deal with Huawei later this week.
All this has to do with a Sunday report New York Times that details how Facebook has had for years associations with mobile device manufacturers, such as Apple and Samsung, that allowed manufacturers to build software that will incorporate the functionality of Facebook. This software would normally also incorporate features from other sources such as email and other social networks, so that users can get all their messages and notifications in one place.
The problem is that this essentially meant giving that third-party software access to the data not only of the people who use their phones, but also of the contacts of those people, usually without telling the contacts where they were going your data. In fact, Facebook did not talk much about these agreements until the post-Cambridge Analytica spotlight fell on them.
Facebook has now said that it had such agreements with four Chinese companies: Huawei, Lenovo, Oppo and TCL. However, the vice president of Facebook, Francisco Varela, said that the social network approved everything that these companies built.
"Given the interest of Congress, we wanted to make it clear that all the information on these integrations with Huawei was stored on the device, not on Huawei's servers," Varela was quoted as saying by CNBC. Apparently, that specification aims to reassure lawmakers and users that the Chinese did not have access to the data.
U.S. Chiefs of intelligence earlier this year warned Americans against the use of phones manufactured by Huawei, which are also marketed under the Honor brand targeting young people. FBI Director Christopher Wray said that Huawei's access to the US market "provides the ability to maliciously modify or steal information [and] and conduct undetected espionage."
Huawei was founded by a former People's Liberation Army engineer named Ren Zhengfei and its expansion abroad has been largely financed by lines of credit from Chinese state banks. None of these facts is particularly unusual for a Chinese company, but they have undoubtedly fueled the perception that Huawei, like ZTE, is not reliable. .