Facebook says it gave Chinese smartphone maker access to user data

By Susan McFarland  |  June 6, 2018 at 10:36 AM
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June 6 (UPI) -- Facebook says it has provided access to its user data to Chinese smartphone maker Huawei, a company U.S. intelligence agencies have said is a security threat.

The social media giant said Tuesday it had partnered with Chinese device makers that permitted the companies to recreate Facebook-like experiences for users.

The news follows a report by The New York Times that Facebook has signed data-sharing deals with dozens of phone and tablet makers through the years, also including Apple and Samsung.

In February, U.S. intelligence officials warned Americans not to use smartphones made by Huawei or fellow Chinese phone company ZTE.

Although American brands like Apple manufacture their smartphones in China, U.S. intelligence officials from the National Security Agency, FBI and CIA said they believe smartphones sold by Chinese-based companies pose a security risk.

FBI Director Christopher Wray told the Senate Intelligence Committee the smartphones and other communication technology could be compromised "to gain positions of power inside our telecommunication networks that provides the capacity to exert pressure or control over our telecommunications infrastructure."

Wray also said the phones could be used to "maliciously modify or steal information" and "to conduct undetected espionage."

Francisco Varela, Facebook's vice president of mobile partnerships, defended the Chinese company, saying Huawei is the third largest mobile manufacturer globally and "its devices are used by people all around the world, including in the United States."

"Facebook along with many other U.S. tech companies have worked with them and other Chinese manufacturers to integrate their services onto these phones," Varela said.

Facebook announced Tuesday it ended more than half of the 60 partnerships it formed through the years. It added its pact with Huawei will shut down this week.

On Wednesday, Huawei said it has never collected or stored Facebook user data. The company has also denied that its products pose security risks and defended itself, saying its products are sold in 170 countries and "meet the highest standards of security, privacy and engineering in every country," including the United States.

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