Facebook has confirmed that a Chinese phone maker deemed a national security threat by the United States was among companies given access to data on users.
Huawei was able to access Facebook data to get the leading social network’s applications to perform on smartphones, according to the California-based company.
“Facebook along with many other US tech companies have worked with them and other Chinese manufacturers to integrate their services onto these phones,” Facebook mobile partnerships leader Francisco Varela said in a statement on Tuesday.
“Given the interest from Congress, we wanted to make clear that all the information from these integrations with Huawei was stored on the device, not on Huawei’s servers.”
Before now-ubiquitous apps standardised the social media experience on smartphones, some 60 device makers like Amazon, Apple, Blackberry, HTC, Microsoft and Samsung worked with Facebook to adapt interfaces for the Facebook website to their own phones, the company said.
Facebook, which has been blocked in China since 2009, also had data-access deals with Chinese companies Lenovo, OPPO and TCL, according to Varela.
“Facebook’s integrations with Huawei, Lenovo, OPPO and TCL were controlled from the get-go,” Varela said.
Huawei has long disputed any links to the Chinese government, noting that its infrastructure and computing products are used in 170 countries.
“Concerns about Huawei aren’t new,” US Senator Mark Warner, vice chairman of the Senate select committee on intelligence, said Tuesday.
“I look forward to learning more about how Facebook ensured that information about their users was not sent to Chinese servers.”
Contracts with phone makers placed tight limits on what could be done with data, and “approved experiences” were reviewed by engineers and managers before being deployed, according to the social network.
Facebook said it does not know of any privacy abuse by cellphone makers who years ago were able to gain access to personal data on users and their friends.
Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said she would not comment on cooperation between companies because she was unaware of the details.
“But I hope that the US can provide a fair, transparent, open and friendly environment for the investments and business activities of Chinese companies,” Hua told a regular press briefing in Beijing on Wednesday.