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Facebook shared user data with Chinese handset makers

The social media giant released a statement following a report in The New York Times.

Facebook has acknowledged it shared user data with several Chinese handset manufacturers as it faces a fresh wave of allegations over its handling of private data.

Chinese firms Huawei, Lenovo, Oppo and TCL were among numerous handset makers that were given access to Facebook data in a “controlled” way approved by the social media giant, its vice president of mobile partnerships, Francisco Varela, said in a statement on Tuesday.

The statement came after The New York Times published reports detailing how Facebook had given device makers deep access to the data of users’ friends without their explicit consent. The data was said to have included work history, relationship status and likes on device users and their friends.

The Times reported the recipients of Facebook data included Chinese firms such as Huawei that have been banned by some US government agencies due to security concerns. Facebook told the newspaper it would end its data partnership with Huawei by the end of this week.

Senator Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the news raised legitimate concerns and wanted to know how Facebook ensured data was not transferred to Chinese servers.

“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,” Facebook’s Mr Varela said.

Huawei did not immediately respond to requests for comment. It has long denied that its products pose security risks.

For years, Huawei and its Shenzhen-based rival ZTE have been the subject of security misgivings in the US, but they have come under particular scrutiny since the start of the Trump administration. In May the Pentagon banned the sale of Huawei and ZTE phones on military bases, four months after AT&T dropped a deal to sell a new Huawei smartphone.

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